'Hang 'em High' gives Airmen deployment experience
By Senior Airman William Winston, 180th Fighter Wing
/ Published October 15, 2012
Great Falls Montana -- In August 2012, approximately 80 Airmen from the 180th Fighter Wing participated in a seven-day combat exercise called "Hang 'em High" in Great Falls, Montana.
"Our F-16s were flying with the 120 Fighter Wing Montana Air National Guard F-15s, and basically playing war," said Airman 1st Class Erin Brubaker, an airfield management operations coordinator at the 180th FW.
This exercise served as a team-building experience for the 180th while also providing unit members with the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of their jobs through combat scenarios.
Though, you can hear, feel, and even see the mission of the 180th each time one of the F-16s take off - you might not ever get a chance to see the jets push their limits during combat maneuvers, unless you de¬ploy or go on temporary duty. This TDY provided Airmen with the possibility to watch the F-16s in action.
The aircraft carry special pods that transmit the jets movements to a big screen at the Montana ANG base, which allowed Airmen back on base the ability to watch the planes go head to head. "It was really awesome being able to watch that on the big screen," said Brubaker.
During the exercise, each group had to complete a variety of training. "While we were there, we did a 200-hour flight inspection," said Senior Airman Travis Dancer, a member of the 180th engine shop. "This training not only tested the pilots, but it also tested members from my group."
The exciting thing for him was knowing his work contributed to how fast the jets got up in the air, which in turn impacted how well the pilot did, Dancer explained.
Brubaker added that she didn't realize the significance of correct communication between airfield management and maintenance until there was a problem with tracking the maintenance codes for the F-16s.
These codes are essential for each plane to receive the correct type of maintenance after a flight, especially in a fast-paced environment like, this training exercise. Solving this issue gave her a sense of personal accomplishment and it was quality experience that she took back to her home base.
Senior Airman Kendra Smith, a member of the 180th egress maintenance group, said she was able to be involved in repairs to the F-16 canopy that do not normally occur during her drill weekend because of the frequent use of the jets in Great Falls.
"This was valuable experience for my career field," said Smith.
Throughout this exercise, members of 180th had to adjust to being on a different base, working on a new flight line and depending on people that they don't normally work with during a drill weekend. Instead of causing division, Smith said, these challenges made the 180th more cohesive and they put the core value of service before self on full display.
A great example of service before self was demonstrated by Senior Master Sgt. Joy Chittum, Staff Sgt. Melissa Billau, Tech. Sgt. Edmund Poitinger and Master Sgt. John Madison, Smith continued. These 180th members went grocery shopping and prepared lunch so the rest of the unit didn't have to leave base during the duty day. The lunches included grilled hamburgers, brats and chicken, along with a side of pasta salad.
"It was a great experience because of the way that everyone treated one another," said Dancer. "Everyone was helpful and you could definitely tell it was a team effort."
Dancer added the maintenance group worked closely with their counterparts at the Montana ANG. The groups were able to share knowledge with one anoth¬er on ways to improve the safety and the efficiency of their respective work processes.
"I love going on trips because I get the chance to see service members doing anything and everything to make the trip run smoothly," said Smith.
"Trips, in general, are an amazing opportunity to know where your strengths and weakness are as a base," said Brubaker. "You have to get out there and perform on a base that you are not familiar with and at a place you may not have ever been before. Then, you get a chance to see what exactly you lack and what you excel at."
"This was the best trip that I have been on and this was a direct result of the group of people that went on it," said Smith. "There weren't any issues on the trip. Everything was very organized and everything went very smoothly."
"With it being my first trip, it made me definitely enjoyed being in military and being in the guard," said Dancer. "I would definitely recommend that if you ever get the chance to go on a TDY like this one then do it - it definitely well worth it."