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Colorado Air National Guard participates in Saber Strike 18

By Senior Master Sgt. John Rohrer | 140th Wing, Colorado National Guard | June 4, 2018

TALLINN, Estonia - Saber Strike 18, a joint multinational exercise, is being conducted from Sunday through June 15 throughout the Baltic region and Poland.

The Colorado Air National Guard's role in providing the only supersonic jets, the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, is to train with Joint Tactical Air Controllers from approximately 20 nations.

While supporting operations in Estonia, the wing will also forward deploy approximately 40 personnel and four F-16's to Slovenia, one of Colorado's partner countries, to participate in Adriatic Strike from today through Friday.

Lt. Col. Mark "Kidd" Garceau, the 140th Wing Saber Strike project officer, said in regards to Saber Strike, "The significance of the training that will be gained from all of the units and countries involved cannot be understated."

Garceau also said that this is the first exercise the unit is working with C-13OJs in Europe and the first time the unit trains with the F-16s in their State Partnership country, Slovenia.

While this is a significant logistical event for the unit, the objectives for the overall mission are paramount. Lt. Col. Christopher Melka, the interim detachment commander, said, "Our mission here is to deter aggression, increase readiness and interoperability of participating NATO, allied and partner nation forces, and assure allies of the U.S. commitment to NATO's collective defense. In other words, one team, one fight."

Lt. Col. Spencer Burkhalter, bilateral affairs officer, U.S. Embassy, Estonia, clarifies the significance of the event, "the importance of Colorado Air National Guard F-16s participating in Exercise Saber Strike 18 from Ämari Air Base cannot be overstated. The integration of air assets into ground maneuvers is crucial to any operation, and this provides the Estonian Defense Forces, Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group, U.S. aircraft, and other allied forces an ideal opportunity to exercise the requirements.."

Saber Strike 18 is the eighth iteration of the long-standing U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise focusing on improving land and air operational capabilities. The level of training and real-world experiences that will be achieved by all involved cannot be accomplished in the same manner as participating in these types of exercises.

Burkhalter also said, "The arrival of the F-16s onto Ämari Air Base also exercises the reception, staging, and onward movement capabilities of the air base which have improved dramatically over the past decade thanks to significant Estonian, NATO, and U.S. investments into base infrastructure and training opportunities for Estonian airforce personnel.The three week deployment of the F-16 unit is another example of the firm U.S. commitment to security in the Baltics."