STEWART AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Newburgh, N.Y. - One of the South African Air Force’s top commanders got a close up look at how two of the New York Air National Guard’s five wings do business during a four-day visit, March 1-4.
Maj. Gen. Wiseman Mbambo, chief of air staff operations for the South African National Defence Force, visited the 105th Airlift Wing here and the 106th Rescue Wing, based at Gabreski Air National Guard Base at Westhampton Beach on Long Island.
Mbambo’s goal was to look at the operations of each wing and determine whether or not there was an opportunity for exchange visits between counterparts, said Major John Sandefur, the New York National Guard’s State Partnership Program coordinator.
The New York National Guard has had a State Partnership Program relationship with the Republic of South Africa’s military since 2004.
The New York Army and Air National Guard have participated in South African air shows, shooting competitions, and provided instructors for South African training programs. In 2012, the chief of the South African reserve forces visited New York National Guard headquarters.
Mbambo was accompanied on his visit by Brig. Gen. Mashoro Phala, South Africa’s senior defense attaché to the United States and Canada.
During his visit to Stewart Air National Guard Base, where 105th Airlift Wing aircrews fly C-17s on logistics missions that span the globe, Mbomba got to try his hand at flying the state-of-the-art simulator that pilots train on.
The general also explored the cockpit of one of the wing’s C-17s and visited a facility where 105th Airlift Wing mechanics rebuild the insides of massive C-5M transports. The 105th is charged by the Air Force with refurbishing the interior of C-5s being brought up to the latest C-5M standard.
At the 105th,Mbomba spoke with maintenance and logistics leaders to explore joint training opportunities, Sandefur said.
At the 106th Rescue Wing, Mbomba examined the HH-60 Pave Hawk rescue helicopters the wing flies. He also checked out the HC-130 search and rescue aircraft the wing operates.
The HC-130 version of the C-130 can refuel HH-60s in flight and are also used to drop para-rescue jumpers and their equipment on land or into the sea from high and low altitudes.
The para-rescue jumpers also showed the general the weapons and other equipment they use in conducting their mission, Sandefur said.
When he spoke with Col. Tom Owens, the commander of the 106th Rescue Wing, Mbomba expressed an interest in trying to organize joint training opportunities between the 106th Rescue Wing’s para-rescue jumpers and South African special forces Soldiers and Airmen, Sandefur said.
He was especially interested in the medical training the para-rescue jumpers receive, Sandefur said.
106th Rescue Wing Airmen have rotated repeatedly into and out of Afghanistan over the last few years. Six members of the wing were awarded a Bronze Star for Valor for their role in a Dec. 2012 rescue mission under fire.
The New York Air National Guard is the largest in the country, with about 5,500 members.
The 109 Airlift Wing flies ski-equipped LC-130 aircraft to support science missions in the Antarctic and Arctic while the 174th Attack Wing operated MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft in missions in the Central Command area while also conducting instruction for MQ-9 pilots and sensor operators and mechanics.
The 107th Airlift Wing at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is in the process of transitioning to an MQ-9 operating unit. New York Air National Guard members also man the Eastern Air Defense Sector, a North American Aerospace Defense Command component responsible for U.S. airspace east of the Mississippi.