West Virginia Airmen critical to joint exercise successes in Europe

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Enjoli Saunders
  • 167th Airlift Wing

Airmen from the 167th Airlift Wing, West Virginia Air National Guard, provided critical airlift and logistical support to the Maryland Air National Guard during the month of May in Europe for Swift Response and Defender 22 exercise as they executed Agile Combat Employment (ACE).

ACE is the concept of quickly mobilizing and deploying aircraft, personnel, and equipment to project combat power across a theater of operations. The C-17 Globemaster II assigned to the 167 AW enabled the rapid global mobility of about 170 Airmen from MDANG and maintenance cargo needed to support flying operations of the 10 Maryland A-10s assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron.

The West Virginia C-17s moved 367 tons of cargo during 29 intra-theater mission legs in the EUCOM theater for the MDANG.

“We could not have done this mission without the incredible support of our West Virginian friends,” said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Joanna Voss, 175th Logistics Readiness Squadron installation deployment officer. “Their aircrew was critical to every phase of this exercise, allowing us to generate combat power throughout Europe. They are amazing.”

They were also critical for the Colorado Army National Guard Soldiers as they teamed with Active Duty counterparts, and international partners to conduct a simulated air-land raid in Bornholm, Denmark. The C-17 moved the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) from Estonia for the rapid infiltration exercise.

In addition to Denmark, C-17 had stops in Iceland, Norway, North Macedonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia delivering cargo and passengers quickly and safely to keep the mission objectives rolling.

“Maintenance at non-U.S. military fields is more complicated,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jillian Sanning, a C-17 Globemaster III pilot assigned to the 1167th Airlift Wing, West Virginia Air National Guard. “It has required creative solutions and networking to get tools and resources. We have worked with the Army and dissimilar aircraft maintenance teams to keep the aircraft flying.”

Multiple aircrews, along with members from the 167th Aerial Port Squadron and the 167th Maintenance Group worked alongside Airmen from the 175th Wing through every phase executing the exercises. Multi-capable Airmen training and coordinating with Maryland leading up to the exercise made the mission possible.

“Every unit that participates in these exercises relies on other units/agencies for support to fully achieve their desired objectives and receive the best and most realistic training possible,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. George Fay, operations officer assigned to the 167th Airlift Wing, WVANG. “Without the support personnel and equipment being in place the A-10s would not be able to execute their mission. Without airlift to deliver the HIMARS they would not be able to strike certain targets. It also provides our members with valuable training in the integration of our primary mission with multiple Air Force, Army, and Allied combat missions.”

DEFENDER-Europe and Swift Response are annual large-scale U.S. Army-led, multinational, joint exercises designed to build readiness and interoperability between U.S., NATO and partner militaries.