MIDDLE RIVER, Md. – The Maryland Air National Guard conducted a readiness exercise involving Airmen in a simulated deployed environment across Martin State Air National Guard Base March 2-5.
Operation Lucky Strike 2023 tested the 175th Wing’s ability to operate in a near-peer conflict while executing unit-level critical tasks. Unit subject matter experts and the inspector general’s office observed the training activities and provided feedback to leaders and participants.
“Operation Lucky Strike is a full-scale readiness exercise designed to test our Airmen’s ability to ensure mission essential tasks are met in a contested, degraded, operationally limited environment including CBRN, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear environments,” said Maryland Air National Guard Capt. Sara Nittinger, 175th Wing director of inspections.
“Everything is driven by the new Air Force generation concept, AFFORGEN,“ she said. “It is how we prepare our Airmen for deployments, where they have to be able to demonstrate that they can accomplish their core mission-essential tasks in a variety of threat levels.”
Wing Airmen operated during simulated cyberattacks, power outages, hazardous material accidents, force protection events, and severe weather at multiple locations, including Aberdeen Proving Ground and Ft. Meade, testing the wing’s ability to demonstrate agile combat employment, known as ACE.
“In the future, we could be operating in a hostile combat environment that is contested or degraded against an adversary that has peer capabilities — in other words, as capable as us and in some cases, maybe more capable,” said Maryland Air National Guard Col. Richard Hunt, 175th Wing vice commander.
“They are going to threaten us as much as we threaten them,“ Hunt said. “In order for us to survive, operate and be effective in a high-risk combat scenario, we need to have the ability to forward-deploy to conduct combat operations for a very limited period of time with minimal exposure in the threat environment, then move.”
During the four-day exercise, Airmen assigned to the 175th Maintenance Group and 104th Fighter Squadron generated combat air power from their home station and conducted ACE from an austere location.
Maintenance Airmen and A-10 pilots performed integrated combat turns and hot-pit refueling. ICTs are the simultaneous rearming and refueling of a running A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft to reduce the aircrew’s ground time and quickly get them back in the air to execute missions.
“Practicing ICTs during an exercise helps prepare us for challenges, so when we deploy it is business as usual,” said Maryland Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Anthony Johnson, avionics technician assigned to the 175th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “To successfully perform ACE, our teams need to be comprised with multi-capable Airmen. We want to taxi and park the A-10s in an austere location to re-arm and refuel them quickly with the smallest team possible so we can remain undetected, then move.”
To help keep the A-10 mission moving forward in the cyber domain, Airmen from the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group worked with members of the Maryland Army National Guard’s 169th Cyber Protection Team to ensure the network used for flight operations remained uncompromised.
“The cyber team participating in the exercise are defending the forward operation base network that the A-10s are using to support flight operations,” said Maryland Air National Guard Maj. Stephanie Travis, weapons and tactics chief assigned to the 275th Cyberspace Operations Squadron.
To keep the training as realistic as possible, Airmen from across the wing dealt with simulated attacks that required them to don protective equipment and take steps to ensure the environment was safe.
“This is a full-scale exercise, meaning we are exercising the entire base because we need to have every Airman ready to perform their jobs,” said Hunt.