by Staff Sgt. Armando A. Schwier-Morales
U.S. Air Force in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs
6/10/2015 - RIGA, Latvia -- Airmen
from three National Guard units took to the skies to support 13 nations
in developing and ensuring a stable Baltic region during Saber Strike
15, June 9.
Two KC-135 Stratotankers and their crews from Michigan and Pennsylvania
joined A-10 Thunderbolts II from Maryland to provide close air support
and keep that close air support flying longer.
Even though the exercise involves more than 6,000 military members
working on their interoperability, the two guard units are finding ways
to be more efficient among themselves in order to get air support to
"No matter how similar they try to make it, everybody operates
differently from the start," said Master Sgt. Gilbert Ruffing,
Pennsylvania ANG maintenance superintendant. "What you do is (practice
by) working together and finding out each others strengths and
weaknesses then you come up with a plan where you all do it the same.
This way when you are in a real world situation you get better and
better ... and have consistency and can find ways of doing better
Ruffing echoes the suberb efforts of air guardsmen who have worked
through equipment, aircraft and skill obstacles in a matter of days to
become an efficient part of the larger machine.
"I think we have been able to bring everybody together using what they
know," said Maj. Damon Antonetti, Pennsylvania ANG KC-135 pilot. "We
meshed together well and are getting the job done. It's been great
working with the Michigan ANG, they have been a good host to us. They
are the lead unit, and they have good leadership."
Working with 55 plus year old aircraft a few things are bound to break,
however, this has not hampered the support provided by this critial air
power platform during Saber Strike 15. Their ability to be flexible and
work and fix problems together has enabled the ANG to continue providing
fuel and air cover, maintaining subsequent missions that rely on the
refuelers to complete their critical missions.
"That is our contribution to the war, to the effort and to the mission,
is supporting that fighter, that bomber and that cargo aircraft so they
can press on and continue to do their business. Knowing that we do that
is a great feeling," said Ruffing.
No matter the aircraft, equipment, what part breaks, or the size of the
unit, Saber Strike 15 enables interoperability between ally and partner
nations, strengthening the bonds at all levels in order to effectively
complete the mission.