LLIELVARDE AIR BASE, Lativa – The Maryland Air National Guard supported the Swift Response exercise over the past two weeks with simultaneous operations in North Macedonia and Norway.
Approximately 120 Airmen and 10 A-10C Thunderbolt II from the 175th Wing demonstrated Agile Combat Employment, mobilizing and deploying aircraft across a theater of operations. Planning for the exercise began almost a year ago.
“We are excited to be here in Europe to demonstrate how we are ready to protect and defend our allies,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Richard Hunt, vice wing commander, 175th Wing. “We train how we fight. I know our Airmen will excel while gaining realistic skill sets that are essential for modern warfare.”
Four A-10 aircraft arrived in Andøya Air Base in Andenes, Norway, May 6. The 104th Fighter Squadron A-10s trained with U.S. and Norwegian joint terminal attack controllers (JTACS) at the Setermoen range.
“The weather was challenging, but it didn’t keep us from flying and working with our partners,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeremy Waldschmidt, an A-10 pilot and the project officer for the Norway portion of the exercise. “Everyone here has been able to adapt and overcome while developing combat capabilities.”
Six A-10s flew into North Macedonia May 7, and with another group of Maryland Air Guard members, supported the exercise from Ohrid Airport in North Macedonia. They trained with JTACS from the United Kingdom and Italy at the Krivolak range and supported the joint forcible entry (JFE) by allied paratroopers.
Distinguished visitors and senior military leaders watched U.K. and U.S. rotary-wing aircraft during the JFE at Krivolak. The A-10s provided close air support for the troops on the ground on the warm, sunny day. Two days earlier and nearly 2,000 miles away, adverse winter weather conditions for the JFE at Altevan drop zone in the snowy mountains of Bardu, Norway, only modified the training between the U.S. JTACS and the A-10s.
“The team-building across multiple military branches and NATO partners was unparalleled to anything prior,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Chris Hoffman, an A-10 pilot assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron, MDANG, and the project officer for the North Macedonian portion of the exercise. “While operating in North Macedonia posed unique challenges, they were quickly overcome by world-class host nation support, and the solely unique capabilities of the A-10 were brought to the fight with 100% success.”
To build on the partnerships, Waldschmidt and other pilots hosted a tour of the A-10 for about 60 members of the Norwegian Armed Forces and Andoya Air Base employees. Two A-10s also performed a flyover at a community event with military aircraft in Skopje, North Macedonia.
After more Guard members arrive from Warfield Air National Guard Base at Martin State Airport, more than 170 Airmen and all 10 A-10s will consolidate operations before dispersing for training sorties in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland during the DEFENDER Europe 22 exercise.
Exercise Swift Response is an annual U.S. Army Europe and Africa multinational training exercise. Some 9,000 service members from 17 allied and partner nations participated in the exercise in Eastern Europe, the Arctic High North, the Baltics and the Balkans, including about 2,700 U.S. Soldiers and Airmen.