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105th Airlift Wing Participates in Exercise Air Defender 2023

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Patrick Espeut
  • 105th Airlift Wing

It was all hands on deck for members of 105th Airlift Wing, based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in New York, as they supported exercise Air Defender 2023 from June 12 through June 23. Exercise AD23 marks the largest deployment exercise of air forces in NATO's history.

Exercise AD23, organized by the German Bundeswehr, involved around 10,000 military personnel and 235 aircraft from 25 nations. Approximately 100 U.S. aircraft from 42 states also participated, with over 2,500 ANG personnel from 50 units across the country playing vital roles in ensuring the success of this exercise.

The purpose of AD23 was to promote U.S. and partner-nation presence and commitment to security and stability in the European theater through ready and postured forces, while strengthening cohesion with our NATO partners in the east and southern parts of Europe.

It was also an opportunity to showcase the rapid global mobility capabilities of the Air National Guard, that it can project air power quickly to anywhere in the world, according to Lt. Col. Kris Johnson, commander of the 137th Airlift Squadron.

“We want to demonstrate determined Allied Air Power. Together with the U. S. and our allies in Europe, the Luftwaffe will send a highly visible and powerful signal of credible deterrence in the air domain.” said Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, Chief of Staff Luftwaffe.

Pilots and aircrew with the 105th flew 18 missions as a part of exercise AD23 totaling 365 flying hours. During the exercise, multiple C-17 Globemaster III aircraft assigned to the 105th AW transported 738 passengers and over 1 million pounds of cargo to multiple countries in Europe. They also worked alongside Austrian Eurofighter aircraft assigned to the Überwachungsgeschwader, simulating different flight situations. In one scenario, a C-17 acted as an aircraft that had lost communication and flew unauthorized into Austrian airspace. They were then intercepted by two Austrian fighters that surrounded the C-17 according to international flight standards and escorted the cargo plane to Hinterstoisser Air Base.

The 105th AW accomplished many firsts during the exercise as well, including the first ever C-17 Globemaster III to land at Lechfeld Air Base, Germany and in Zeltweg, Austria.

Eighteen maintainers assigned to the 105th Maintenance Squadron as well as two supply personnel from the 105th Logistic Readiness Squadron deployed to Glasgow Prestwick Airport in Prestwick, Scotland in support of exercise AD23. Guard Airmen provided 24-hour coverage for the 14 days that they spent in the theater of operations. Their efforts enabled the support, recovery and launch of all the C-17s that came through Prestwick while participating in the exercise.

“The beautiful thing of having a small composite team out in the theater is that you really start to see the multi-capable airmen functions out on the ramp.” said Lt. Col. Eric L. Durkins, II, the commander of the 105th Maintenance Squadron. “We had supply Airmen blocking in airplanes, we had them assisting with tire changes. Airmen were working outside of their primary duties helping the collective effort.”

The 105th Base Defense Squadron also played a large role in exercise AD23. Thirteen Defenders from the 105th AW integrated themselves with the 52nd Security Forces Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, participating in numerous field-training exercises. 105th Defenders even conducted routine patrols alongside the 52nd SFS and provided flightline and entry control point protection. Seven members of the 105th BDS also accompanied U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning IIs, assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont National Guard, all the way to Hinterstoisser Air Base in Zeltweg, Austria. 105th BDS Airmen maintained around the clock security for the aircraft for four days before returning to Germany.

Not only did the 105th AW participate in the exercise’s European theater, but Stewart Air National Guard Base also served as a staging location for Air Force planes from across the country before they departed to Germany. The 105th AW’s airfield managers provided coverage for nearly 100 arrivals and departures of military aircraft from across the country. Airmen from the 105th also coordinated lodging and other needs for the aircrews from the units participating in the exercise.

The 105th also had a key role in providing an air bridge in support of the exercise. This meant transporting over 150 passengers and 117,500 pounds of cargo from Stewart ANGB to Germany. The cargo ranged from equipment and vehicles, all the way to MQ-9 Reaper drones.

The Current Operations section built, coordinated and facilitated exercise AD23 missions prior to departure. They also created communication channels and internally established a 24 hour on call schedule to manage changes throughout the overseas exercise. Aviation Resource Management processed 25 flight authorizations and managed a total of 1801 aircrew flight hours. They were also responsible for facilitating an orientation flight for Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh, director, Air National Guard, and German Air Force distinguished visitors.

Exercise AD23 was an amazing opportunity for NATO and partner countries to come together and strengthen partnerships in the goal of deterring aggression around the world. This exercise was also a chance for the 105th AW to train alongside allied nations that they could potentially deploy with and show the world their ability to rapidly deploy military assets to all parts of the globe.