KEY WEST, Fla. – Approximately 150 Airmen assigned to the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin, participated in joint-international training at Naval Air Station Key West May 5-18.
Throughout the two-week training, Wisconsin Air National Guardsmen and their active-duty counterparts worked with members of the U.S. Navy, Arizona Air National Guard and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
“Anytime we are able to pick up, go somewhere and execute the mission in a joint-combined environment is always great for everyone,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Zachary Griswold, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot and the officer in charge for the 115th Fighter Wing.
Due to NAS Key West’s unique location, airspace and ability to host a wide array of airframes, the 115th FW engaged in training unable to be replicated at Volk Field Air National Guard Base or other local facilities.
“With Key West’s training ranges being located primarily over water, a lot of the altitude and speed restrictions we have when flying in Wisconsin are removed,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Victor McCoy, an F-16 pilot with the 115th. “It’s pretty awesome when we get the chance to fly supersonic and train to the maximum capabilities of the jet.”
The exercise enabled U.S. Air Force Capt. Kevin Fanter, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the active-duty 378th Fighter Squadron in Madison, to get one step closer to becoming a four-ship flight lead.
“As an active-duty pilot not transitioning to the F-35, I’ll be leaving the 115th by the time this fall rolls around,” said Fanter. “Flying out of Key West has allowed me to train against a larger aggressor force, helping me become a more tactically proficient flight lead and further prepare me for whatever challenges I encounter at my next duty station.”
While Key West provided advanced training for the fighter pilots, it also benefited all those involved. The unit showcased its ability to operate in a remote environment, enhancing the Air Force’s strategic goal of agile combat employment.
“When we move an entire force, everyone from the most junior Airmen to the most senior leaders receive great ACE training,” said Griswold. “It’s through training missions like these that we’re able to demonstrate to the Air Force and the people of Wisconsin what a class act unit the 115th Fighter Wing is.”