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Kentucky Air Guard provides airlift in Italy for Mangusta 19

Members of the Italian Folgore, an paratrooper brigade from the Italian Army, execute an airdrop with members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing in Pisa, Italy, Nov. 7, 2019, as part of Mangusta 19, a bilateral exercise to promote readiness and interoperability among NATO allies.

Members of the Italian Folgore, an paratrooper brigade from the Italian Army, execute an airdrop with members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing in Pisa, Italy, Nov. 7, 2019, as part of Mangusta 19, a bilateral exercise to promote readiness and interoperability among NATO allies.

PISA, Italy – More than 35 Airmen and two C-130 Hercules aircraft from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing provided airlift for U.S. and Italian airdrop operations throughout exercise Mangusta 19 Oct. 28 to Nov. 7.

The Italian bilateral national exercise promotes readiness and interoperability among NATO allies and strengthens the strategic partnership between the United States and Italy, officials said.

Mangusta 19 incorporated members from the Italian Air Force, paratroopers from the Italian Army and members of the U.S. Marine Corps from the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 to train alongside the Kentucky Guard members.

Master Sgt. Charlie Wilding, a parachute rigger and the 123rd's lead logistics non-commissioned officer in charge, described his interactions with the Italian Army rigging force as a mutual learning experience.

"We taught them how we do it, but then took certain things away from them that we'll definitely be implementing at home," said Wilding, an air transportation specialist with the 123rd. "The language barrier made it a bit difficult at the beginning, but once we started to rig, it seemed like the job itself had its own language, and we didn't need to talk that much. It was very nice to work with them. They're good people."

In addition to building cohesiveness and tactical understanding, the exercise also provided a training opportunity for Kentucky's traditional Guard members, according to Tech. Sgt. Chris McCord, a crew chief with the 123rd Maintenance Group.

"The best opportunities for me to learn my job proficiently are on the road," McCord explained. "I take these trips to spend time learning my job and becoming more and more comfortable with it. Repetition is what I need to be able to get it down."

Mangusta 19 exemplifies how the U.S. works side-by-side with NATO allies, training to meet security challenges as a unified force, said Maj. Scott Benningfield, the 123rd's air mission commander. The training contributed to developing and improving air readiness and is significant in maintaining security, he added, calling the exercise extremely valuable.

"We learned so much through our direct integration with the Italians," said Benningfield, a navigator in the wing's 165th Airlift Squadron. "It was good to see how other places operate."

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