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NEWS | Nov. 29, 2017

132d Wing Airmen hone Reaper skills in ‘Combat Hammer’ drill

By Staff Sgt. Mike Kelly 132d Wing, Iowa Air National Guard

DUKE FIELD, Fla. - The Air National Guard recently participated in its first "Combat Hammer" exercise from Oct. 24-Nov. 13 at Duke Field, Florida. The exercise was attended by MQ-9 Reaper units across the ANG including approximately 16 members of the 124th Operations Group and 132d Logistics Readiness Squadron from the 132d Wing, in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Weapons Systems Evaluation Program (WSEP) exercise allowed the 124th OG MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators to practice live-fire operations with other remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) units as well as conventional manned aircraft such as A-10 Warthogs, F-16 Falcons, F-15 Eagles and F-22 Raptors. It also helped flight crews with "first time shooters" get experience executing live fire shots in a simulated combat environment.

"The WSEP exercise was like nothing I have ever experienced before," said Tech. Sgt. Richard, a sensor operator for the 124th OG. "To be able to work with other RPA units out of the same GCS (ground controlled squadron) towards the same mission was pretty incredible."

WSEP provided the Iowa aircrews with realistic air-to-ground combat scenarios to provide "as real as it gets" training outside of the combat zone. The scenarios included targeting swarms of attacking boats, stationary ground targets and providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance over the battlefield while manned aircraft attacked targets.

"SWARM exercises proved an unparalleled maritime training environment for us," said 1st Lt. Drew, a 124th OG MQ-9 pilot. "The opportunity to train alongside multiple fighter platforms allowed us to learn from manned pilots as well as educate them on our capabilities and what we can bring to the fight."

Logistics personnel also contributed to the success of the exercise by providing all equipment and material. Senior Master Sgt. Jason Lehmann, 132d LRS plans superintendent, supervised and coordinated the transportation of approximately 140,000 pounds of air freight by two C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft as well as multiple semi-trucks carrying ground equipment.

Members of 132d LRS helped support over 67 hours of flight time as well as the buildup and loading of 34 munitions including GBU-12s, GBU-38s and Hellfire missiles. Ensuring the logistical needs of the operation were met was essential for a smooth operation.

"We understand that ensuring our equipment and munitions are ready to go is vital to the success of the mission," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Drish, a munitions systems specialist, 132d LRS. "It was a great pleasure and privilege to work with such a skilled group of people from the ammo and logistics community."

With the experience gained at the Air National Guard"s inaugural WSEP exercise, the 132d Wing looks to continue building up the skills of its warfighters in future exercises.

Editor"s note: Due to ISR and 132d Wing policy regarding the MQ-9, the last names of maintenance, operations and intelligence personnel are not included.



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