The Oklahoma Standard - ANG Top Leader Visits 137th SOW

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sarah M. McClanahan
  • Air National Guard

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael A. Loh, director, Air National Guard, visited the 137th Special Operations Wing, Oklahoma National Guard, on April 14, 2022, at the Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma City.

Loh familiarized himself with the 137th SOW’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission through an MC-12W mission-orientation flight and engaged directly with Airmen who have made the wing into an international center of excellence.

The visit began with an aircrew brief before stepping onto an MC-12W primed to simulate a real-life mission. Currently, the 137th SOW is the only U.S. Air Force unit with the MC-12W, a medium-to-low altitude, twin-engine turboprop aircraft whose primary mission is to provide ISR support directly to ground forces.

“Today [the 137th SOW] simulated going after a high-value asset,” said Loh. “We had different role players in that. But, the crew onboard the aircraft was stressed just like they would be overseas - multiple radios coming in, traffic in and out of the aircraft, as well as multiple players in the stack, simulating an MQ-9, simulating an F-16, simulating A-10s.”

The ability to seamlessly integrate all of these components in an electronic environment provides significant training value in interoperability and demonstrates the mission capabilities of the 137th SOW.

As a manned ISR, combat air support, and aeromedical evacuation force provider, the 137th SOW supports global exercises and operations to meet the demands of combatant commanders and Oklahoma’s governor. However, the 137th SOW’s status as an international center of excellence stems from its extensive training programs focused on manned ISR, air-to-ground integration, and foreign engagements.

“The ability to translate the combatant commander's intent … into actual training and opportunities, I think will be huge in the future,” said Loh. “For the National Guard, it's reaching across state lines and the State Partnership Program for the international piece. So [the 137th SOW does] a really nice job on that integration of the joint terminal attack controller, the training, the schoolhouse, and now leveraging the state partnership program, not just with [Azerbaijan] here, but also with other areas and other states to do that.”

In this past year, the 137th Combat Training Flight hosted students from seven NATO allied nations, including Estonia, Germany, Slovenia, Latvia, Turkey, Greece, Czech Republic and Italy, for its JTAC qualification course, one of only two taught in Air Force schoolhouses. The 137th Special Operations Group manned ISR fundamentals course also hosted participants from Canada. In addition, Oklahoma’s SPP partner country, Azerbaijan participated in a medical knowledge exchange at the Oklahoma National Guard Regional Training Institute in Oklahoma City.

In early February 2022, the 137th CTF blended the diverse skills of 137th SOW Airmen in a Mission Sustainment Team training, which taught 33 students land navigation, radio communication, and radio programming skills. Incorporating JTAC instructors’ skill sets with those brought by Airmen from various units will ensure these multi-capable MST Airmen are equipped to operate in diverse deployed environments. The training ensures long-term mission sustainment in austere locations and strengthens partnerships across a variety of specialties.

It comes as no surprise that the Airmen of the 137th SOW are leading examples of partnerships within the Department of Defense. In a highly-developed urban area, such as Oklahoma City, partnerships with industries and local communities are key to maintaining urban airspace. Building and strengthening those critical partnerships is something the National Guard does better than anyone and it starts with the investment in its people, said Loh.

“I think the most important thing that we can do as Guardsmen is give back to our community,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Christopher Gries, commander, 137th SOW. “It's that investment in our kids, it's an investment in our businesses, and it's an investment in the people that actually work with us. Building a good-quality Airman -- based on integrity, based on excellence in everything that we do, based on our core values -- I think is what really gives back to our community because we're examples to our neighbors.”

Whether the mission takes them across the globe or within their own communities, members of the 137th SOW represent Oklahoma wherever they go.

“The Oklahoma Standard is all about caring about our neighbors, and I think that rubs off in everything that we do,” said Gries. “Every time I put somebody from the OKANG anywhere in the world, we do it right … Air Force Special Operations Command looks at us as the lead unit, and it's not because of the leadership ... it's because of the Airmen, it's because of the people and it's everything that Oklahoma brings to the fight and I think that's what's making us make a huge impact worldwide.”

This standard of professionalism was evident throughout Loh’s visit with the Airmen who have helped make the 137th SOW into an international center of excellence. It’s the 137th SOW’s dedication to the mission that makes them stand apart in their contribution to the current fight as a force provider of manned ISR, combat air support, and aeromedical evacuation.