Fighter Integration over the Islands

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Beth Holliker
  • Public Affairs
This 2013-2014 Winter has been officially named the most historic recorded in Northwest Ohio. This year topped the charts at 84.8 inches of snow and 25 days with
below zero temperatures, surpassing the record set in 1978 by 11.7 inches of snow.

Airmen from the 180th Fighter Wing didn't let the record breaking season prevent them from maintaining combat readiness. They said, "A hui hou kakou," a Hawaiian phrase meaning "until we meet again," to the bitter cold and mounds of snow. Leaving Ohio's
cold weather and snow for warm and sunny skies, Airmen said "Aloha" to Hawaii, where they participated in aerial combat exercise Sentry Aloha.

In March, over 125 members from the Ohio National Guard-based unit deployed 32 short tons of cargo and eight F-16s to Joint Base Pearl Harbor to participate in the two-week
exercise focused on dissimilar air combat training. Dissimilar air combat training is flying and training with different fighter airframes.

Though the Hawaii Air National Guard has been hosting Sentry Aloha for more than 30 years, this year a newly formatted exercise was debuted.

"Historically, Sentry Aloha was an exercise that allowed Air National Guard fighter units from the Continental United States to take advantage of the year-round mild weather in the islands to practice air-to-air employment tactics," explained 112th Fighter Squadron
Commander, Lt. Col. Michael DiDio. "Due to the recent fiscal challenges within the Department of Defense, the Air National Guard is working to strategically maximize efficiency and maintain combat readiness by combining numerous small-scale exercises into fewer, more synergistic exercises."

Now a multi-unit exercise, Sentry Aloha involved seven flying squadrons from both the active duty and reserve components including more than 350 Airmen and 10 different airframes, making this the state's largest exercise to date.

An exercise of this magnitude allows the Air Force to execute the total force integration concept, providing active duty Air Force units, Air Force Reserve units and Air National Guard units combined training, just as they would integrate to maintain air superiority and conduct offensive and defensive tactics in combat situations.

Training with dissimilar aircraft allows sister services and coalition partners to work together on mastering combat tactics and operational level campaigns in a controlled, strategic, advanced and realistic environment.

"The nation's future conflicts will not be fought alone, historical analysis demonstrates this," explains Col. Craig Baker, 180th Fighter Wing Commander, who has flown both the F-16 and F-22. "Therefore, it is critical that we train and exercise alongside not only our joint forces, but also our coalition partners in a dissimilar environment."

Not only that, but training focused on fighter integration of fourth generation fighters, such as the F-15 Eagles and F-16 Vipers, with fifth generation fighters, like the F-22 Raptors, provide the strategic agility needed to fight against a formidable, aggressive adversary in a continually strained fiscal environment, especially sequestration.

The continual reduction of our fiscal resources has driven the U.S. Air Force to make strategic decisions in both recapitalization and modernization, purchasing fifth generation aircraft and upgrading fourth generation fighters to ensure both our capability and capacity to combat a high-end, full spectrum, large conflict fight.

"The U.S. Air Force is responsible for providing combatant commanders with capabilities in our five core missions. One of those is air superiority," said Baker. Unfortunately, fiscal challenges have restricted adequate recapitalization, so we must support these fifth generation fighters with something else, modernized F-15s and F-16s.

"We have to train together because we will fight together to meet our military objectives," Baker continued. "The first time we fly in a dissimilar environment should not be the first day of a large-scale conflict." Though Sentry Aloha is focused on the flying mission and fighter integration, training such as this, at anoff-sight location offers real, hands-on training opportunities for our drill status guardsmen, our citizen Airmen who typically train with the unit one weekend a month and two weeks a year.

"Exercises like this help push our maintainers to think outside of the box and get into more of a wartime mindset," said Capt. Matthew Lynagh, a maintenance operations
officer with the 180th Fighter Wing. "The goal, much like during wartime campaign, is to never miss a sortie due to any maintenance issue. At Sentry Aloha, it's all hands on deck to perform any Red Ball Maintenance or time sensitive maintenance, to ensure we make
every sortie, every time."

The Hawaiian Islands boast the largest unrestricted operating air space in the U.S. combined with the year-round mild weather conditions; Sentry Aloha offers an advantageous location to execute strategic combat training; allowing U.S. forces to provide effective combat power to the current and future fights. This exercise allowed the wing to fly 85 additional sorties that a regular March at home-station would not permit.

"Our mission is to provide combat ready Airmen for federal, state and community missions and our job is to be ready to fight," said Baker. "These exercises give our Airmen the chance to train with the right equipment, alongside our joint and coalition partners. The instructing, the learning and the ability to provide valued lessons are opportunities that exist only in these advanced training environments and we will continue to capitalize on every chance to be part of one."

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