SAVANNAH, Ga. - Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen provided weather forecasting and fixed wing and rotary aviation support for Global Guardian 2012, a joint Army and Air Force exercise held at the Georgia National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center here, Feb. 13 to Feb. 24.
More than 1,300 personnel from 20 different states including flying units, medical units and support units as well as members of the Royal Netherland Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force participated in the exercise.
Units from the active and reserve Air Force and Army as well as the Army and Air National Guard took part in the exercise designed to prepare units to deploy, conduct direct and indirect combat operations and redeploy safely to home base.
The exercise provided an opportunity for the units to train in a realistic joint and multinational environment that simulates the situations seen in modern combat. "You are not going into a combat zone anymore where we are going it alone," said Air Force Lt. Col. John Traettino, the Global Guardian exercise director.
Traettino, who served two years in Iraq, said that Soldiers and Airmen deployed in combat zones will see a variety of difference aircraft from different services and various international partner nations. Exercises like Global Guardian help prepare Army and Air Force personnel to function effectively in that sort of joint multinational environment, he said.
Four Airmen from the 200th Weather Flight provided weather forecasting support and about 35 Soldiers from the Detachment 1, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment provided aviation support with Lakota helicopters for reconnaissance, VIP and troop transport and casualty evacuation training.
Virginia Guard pilots flying F-22 Raptors also took part in the exercise flying simulated combat missions over the skies of Georgia from Langley Air Force Base.
As of Feb. 23, pilots from the 192nd Fighter Wing flew five missions with four F-22s in each mission along with the 1st Fighter Wing from Langley. The missions were integrated with F-15E Strike Eagles, F-15C Eagles and KC-135 Stratotankers, and the Raptors engaged in simulated air-to-air combat.
It was the first long haul mission for five of the F-22 pilots, and the wing also accomplished give mission commander upgrades where pilots planned and led the mission as the mission commander.
"The bottom line is this was great training for all involved," said Air Force Maj. Michael Schaner of the 192nd Fighter Wing. "The fighter integration between F-22s and F-15Cs was a huge success highlighting the importance of common FI standards.
"The mission planning from three different locations, coordination and debrief over the phone, and real time coordination of four different bases supporting one exercise is as real as it gets for wartime operations," he said. "To me this is the most important point out of this entire exercise, proving that we can overcome the distance hurdle and still be successful with some creative planning and contracts."
For the forecasters of the 200th Weather Flight, the duty day began early with assembling data for multiple weather briefings throughout the day. For an exercise with such significant aviation integration, their timely forecasting was critical. Traettino explained that severe weather warnings provided by the 200th helped make sure aircraft were properly tied down and covered during periods of intense high winds.
For the Soldiers of Detachment 1, the missions for Global Guardian provided them a more complex airspace to fly their UH-72 Lakota helicopters, said Army Capt. Panteley Matanov, the detachment commander.
The unit fielded the helicopters in late 2010 and has flown most of their missions from the Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston, so flying from the Savannah CRTC was great training for the detachment's Soldiers.
In addition to flying numerous VIP and troop transport missions, the Virginia aviators also flew dozens of casualty evacuation training sorties with U.S., Dutch and Canadian medical personnel that helped more than 200 personnel meet aeromedical evacuation certification standards, Traettino said.
Many of the missions involved two or three helicopters, which provided great training for pilots serving as air mission commanders, Matanov said.
Most of their flights in Virginia are single ship missions, so the additional challenge of planning for multiple aircraft and working with pilots from different states helped build the experience level for everyone involved in the missions, he said.
Matanov said the joint multinational training environment has been very realistic and a real "eye opener" for his Soldiers, but it has worked well across the board. "This is what annual training should look like," he said.
The exercise also gave Detachment 1 the opportunity to work with their higher headquarters of 2nd Battalion, 151st Aviation Regiment from the South Carolina National Guard. In addition to the Lakotas from Virginia, the South Carolina Guard flew Lakotas of their own as well as CH-47 Chinooks and UH-60 Black Hawks.
"This has given us the opportunity to see how fit into the big picture," Matanov said.
The detachment's pilots, crew chiefs, flight operations specialists, refuelers and ground maintenance personnel worked side by side with fellow Soldiers in the South Carolina Guard as well as the U. S. Air Force, Dutch and Canadians.
Traettino said he was impressed by the duty performance of the Soldiers and Airmen from Virginia. "Everyone I have been exposed to has been very professional and very disciplined," he said. "They know their jobs and can do them very well, and you can tell they have been doing it for a long time."