JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – Dozens of operations, maintenance and support Airmen and a contingent of F-22 Raptors returned home April 4 following almost a month of temporary duty at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan.
In Japan, the Hawaiian Raptors, a Total Force Integration unit of Airmen from the Hawaii Air National Guard (HIANG) 154th Wing and the active-duty 15th Wing, conducted local area training with U.S. Marine Corps and Japan Air Self-Defense Force units.
“Our focus at MCAS, Iwakuni has been on fighter integration with F-35Bs and F-18s, combat representative large force employment and joint interoperability,” said Lt. Col. Brian Nash, 199th Fighter Squadron commander. “It allowed our pilots and maintainers to train alongside one another, learn and apply best practices and ensure the joint force remains agile and responsive in the Pacific.”
The exercise was an execution of the Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment concept of operations. Through ACE, the Air Force demonstrates global reach and agility, providing combat airpower to support the U.S. commitment to regional security and stability.
ACE concepts have evolved through the years. However, the core principles of agility, resiliency and deterrence have remained constant.
“This exercise demonstrates the Total Force’s ability to rapidly and unpredictably project combat power to a place and time of our choosing.” Nash said.
KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to the HIANG’s 203rd Air Refueling Squadron and other aerial refueling units helped provide the air bridge across the Pacific, effectively ‘dragging’ the Raptors to and from their temporary roost in Iwakuni.
While the fighters traversed the Pacific, Airmen and equipment were not far behind, riding the wings of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft operated by Team Hickam’s Airlift Squadrons.
“Maintenance, operations, logistics and support all came through to make this operation happen,” Nash said. “Up and down the enterprise, you saw it. There’s an element of complexity in endeavors such as this, and I think the TFI construct combined with our in-house capabilities positioned us uniquely to execute this mission.”
Through the years, Team Hickam has built up its ACE experience. Training events such as a recent C-17 refueling of an F-22 serve to hone the ACE expertise of all involved. Although the Iwakuni operation was the most recent, it’s sure not to be the last.
“I can say that this has been a very transformative experience towards the way we do business,” said Nash. “With each successive ACE event, we learn, and we become more efficient and effective each time.”
The first groups of Airmen and equipment arrived home during Easter weekend, with the rest landing over the next few weeks.