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Swamp Fox Airmen train with assets 'Out West'

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson
  • 169th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs
During the past several weeks, more than 200 Airmen from the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., deployed to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., for temporary duty (TDY) to complete multi-rolled training requirements.

The Swamp Fox Airmen were initially tasked with accomplishing training specific to their upcoming Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment, but also deployed to help with training for Green Flag-West.

Green Flag-West is a joint force close air support (CAS) training mission conducted to support Airmen and Soldiers preparing to deploy to a combat operation.

"It is good training and we are getting something out of it, but really we're the training tools for other folks preparing to go down range," said Lt. Col. Akshai Gandhi, 157th Fighter Squadron commander.

Green Flag-West training was crucial for Swamp Fox fighter pilots before the last AEF in 2012, when they provided CAS for troops engaged in combat on the ground in Afghanistan. The experience gained was evident during this most recent Green Flag-West, as the pilots helped educate Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) and Army personnel on how to effectively integrate air power.

"We are currently at Green Flag due to sequestration and the government shutdown," said Gandhi. "Air Combat Command was able to fund the Nellis TDY for our AEF spin-up, if the unit could also support Green Flag-West. So it was all about saving money."

With just a week and a half notice, Swamp Fox personnel were able to rearrange the deployment to include support for the extra training requirement. Airmen arrived at Nellis a week early to fly 14 F-16 sorties each day for Green Flag-West. The flying amount increased on the second week to 24 sorties each day, as they continued Green Flag support and began their own desired operational capability task; Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD).

Swamp Fox fighter pilots coordinated with the Nellis 16th Weapons Squadron of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School to integrate flying SEAD/DEAD missions along with their training.

"Eight to ten Swamp Fox F-16s integrated with another 10-20 of a variety of other aircraft for training," said Gandhi. "We were able to complete some very complicated mission sets that we're not able to do at home because of the different assets and range capabilities available at Nellis."

The third and final week of flying at Nellis focused solely on the SEAD/DEAD mission that will be important for the next AEF. Aircraft maintainers and pilots will be working long hours to support flying 18 sorties each day.

"The Combined Forces Air Component Commander who tasked us to the AEF will be pleased to know the Swamp Fox will be ready to meet any contingency that may develop in the area of responsibility we will be operating in," said Gandhi.

F-16 crew chiefs and maintainers were challenged with working in other areas on the flightline outside of their comfort zone while at Green Flag-West.

"Any time you go TDY the experience is huge," said Lt. Col. Sharilyn Askins, 169th Maintenance Operations Flight commander. "Everyone needs to go TDY and deploy. The camaraderie and experience you gain is immeasurable, especially for our traditional guardsmen."

The training doesn't end with Green Flag-West and the AEF spin-up at Nellis. After the third week is wrapped up, a small Swamp Fox contingency will redeploy to NAS Point Magu, California, to support Naval Surface Warfare training for an additional week of flying.

"Point Magu provides additional opportunities for our guys to interact with another service and another form of warfare, helping the Navy with qualifications on new ships," said Gandhi.

For a relatively difficult deployment that was put together in relatively short notice, Gandhi mentions the excellent work by the 169th Logistics Readiness Squadron and Capt. Richard Garin, 157th FS fighter pilot and the TDY project officer.

"Everyone pushed pretty hard and did a fantastic job," said Gandhi.