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Another Swamp Fox first, combined training with Polish Air Force

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Ed Snyder
  • 169 Fighter Wing
The South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Fighter Wing sent more than 100 Airmen and a contingent of F-16s to Łask Air Base to train with the Polish Air Force's 32nd Tactical Air Wing and the 52nd Fighter Wing's 480th Fighter Squadron from Spangdahlem, Germany in June. This month-long, bi-lateral training, called Aviation Detachment Rotation 15-3, paired Swamp Fox and 480th FS pilots, maintainers and support personnel with their Polish counterparts.

Since its inception in 2012, the mission of the 52nd Operations Group, Aviation Detachment 1 in Poland, has been to increase cooperation between U.S. and Polish Air Forces by strengthening multi-service interoperability through regular joint training exercises.

"The ability for the 52nd and 169th Fighter Wings to employ here and project combat capability is second to none," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jack Harman, commander of the 52nd OG/Det 1 Aviation Detachment in Poland. "We go from simple coexistence to interoperability [with the Polish Air Force] within just a couple of years."

AvDet Rotation 15-3, was the first to include U.S. Air Force active duty and Air National Guard  F-16 fighter units in Poland to support Operation ATLANTIC RESOLVE. This multi-service military operation included a series of exercises to demonstrate the United States' continued commitment to the collective security of NATO and a dedication to enduring peace and regional stability.

The 169th Fighter Wing was chosen to participate in AvDet Rotation 15-3 because Air National Guard units share many organizational similarities with the Polish Air Force. This blending of active duty and ANG F-16 expertise offered the Polish Air Force more opportunities to learn from as the country develops its relatively new F-16 fighter program.

"Our bases don't have many frills and we depend largely on our local communities to support the needs of our Airmen," said Lt. Col. Akshai "Abu" Gandhi, the South Carolina Air National Guard's 157th Fighter Squadron commander. "We only have what we need to accomplish our mission and we find that this shared dynamic allows us to quickly build professional relationships with our fellow Airmen from Poland's 32nd Tactical Air Wing here at Łask."

The exercises these units participated in during Operation ATLANTIC RESOLVE were, Saber Strike, Baltic Operations, Eagle Talon and Ramstein Guard. During the four-week timeline, a robust flying schedule offered NATO forces an opportunity to actively engage in air, sea and ground tactical training scenarios. These scenarios allowed both the U.S. and Polish air forces to focus on the coordination of offensive air operations and command and control objectives.

"We are flying against actual threat arrays, full surface-to-air missile batteries. It's equipment that we train against, but not at this scale. This is an amazing training opportunity for our Swamp Fox pilots, maintainers and support personnel," said Gandhi.

Training with other air forces is nothing new to the South Carolina Air National Guard. In 2014, the 169th Fighter Wing sent eight F-16s and 100 Airmen to train alongside their Colombian Air Force counterparts in Rionegro, Colombia.

Working with the Polish and U.S. Air Force active-duty units was a great opportunity and supporting Operation ATLANTIC RESOLVE was an excellent chance for the Swamp Foxes to experience another part of the world, commented Gandhi.

Since Sept. 11, 2001 the 169th has deployed multiple times to Iraq, Afghanistan and other Southwest Asia locations. This is the first time the South Carolina Air National Guard has sent Airmen to train in Europe since BALTOPS 1998 at Karup Air Station, Denmark.