Military News

Saturday, June 20, 2015

U.S. Air Force wraps up Saber Strike participation

by Staff Sgt. Armando A. Schwier-Morales
U.S. Air Force in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

6/19/2015 - RIGA, Latvia -- After two weeks of training, learning and building partnerships Saber Strike 15 in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland came to a close June 20, 2015.

Saber Strike 15 provided 14 nations and more than 6,000 service members an opportunity to develop skills and interoperability not only among themselves but also with U.S. Air Force assets.

The USAFE and the Air National Guard provided close air support in the form of F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolts II, and B-52 Stratofortress. The C-130J Super Hercules joined the exercise providing on time cargo deliveries and a jump platform for paratroopers. In addition, the KC-135 Stratotanker provided the fuel to keep the CAS going for those joint terminal attack controllers on the ground training with multinational ground force units.

"The biggest take away from Saber Strike is just the opportunity to work with our partners and the unique training here that we couldn't get anywhere else," said Maj. Joey Lubbers, 435th AGOW director of staff. "Also just working with different partners from different nations Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, and sharing ideas about how to operate more effectively together in a NATO capacity."

Unique training opportunities allowed the 37th Airlift Squadron and 435th Contingency Response Group to test the capability of establishing an airfield on an unknown grass field and then landing a C-130J on that designated area.

Other opportunities included JTACs embedding Latvian army units to show what airpower can provide to ground forces.

"When you are in a deployed environment you may not know who you're going to be working with if you don't deploy with the unit your are supporting," Tech. Sgt. Todd Jensen, 116th Air Support Operations Squadron JTAC. You can go as a one or two person team and support people you haven't met before but if you have that network already put in place because (events like Saber Strike) you can build that knowledge base right of the bat and have an understanding of that squadrons expectations and jump right into training and fighting."

The Air Force made history during Saber Strike 15, when a B-52 Stratofortress performed the first bomb drop at Adazi Training Area, Latvia. It also provided close air support to ground forces' offensive-defensive operations during Distinguished Visitors day. It wasn't the only CAS airframe around though.

The A-10s providing CAS were able to hear a British accent come over the radio, or a Latvian JTAC in order to know and understand each other. This was the first time the 175th Wing, Maryland ANG, sent eight A-10 to participate in Saber Strike providing close air support to multinational ground force units.

The Pennsylvania and Michigan KC-135 refuelers and A-10 units from across the U.S. came together to host the Latvian and several distinguished visitor showcasing the Air Force and what it brings to the battle. The refuelers improved their interoperability among themselves to improve their capabilities with 17 missions providing more than 25,600 gallons of fuel.

"Saber Strike 2015 serves as another shining example of the enduring partnership that exists between Michigan and Latvia through the State Partnership program," said Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum, 127th Wing commander, Michigan Air National Guard.  "The Wing and the State deployed people and equipment in a substantive demonstration of our resolve to support our partners and to let them know that Michigan has been, and will be, a true friend in times of peace as well as in times of trouble."

While Saber Strike came to a close, it is just one of many exercises helping build partnerships and build interoperability between the U.S. and NATO allies and continuing to support the stability in and around the Baltic Area.

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