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New York Air Guard Supports European, Pacific Exercises

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Briana Ross,
  • New York National Guard

NEWBURGH, N.Y. – Seventeen Airmen from the New York Air Guard’s 105th Airlift Wing flew around the world from June 28 to July 6 while supporting two major Air Force exercises.

The Airmen, flying two C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifters, left Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh and flew to Scotland and then Germany. They picked up 30 personnel and 75 tons of cargo and moved them to the Philippines and Guam before returning home.

“This mission was an awesome opportunity to showcase our aircraft’s long-range capability and cargo capacity,” said 1st Lt. Sinead Kirnan, one of the aircraft commanders. “The Pacific is a different type of flying, which is great for an East Coast-based crew to see.”

The two aircraft supported Air Defender 23 and Mobility Guardian 23. 

Air Defender 23, organized by the German Bundeswehr, involved 10,000 military personnel and 250 aircraft from 25 nations in the largest air deployment exercise in NATO’s history.

Mobility Guardian 23 was the movement of 15,000 U.S. and international military personnel conducting simultaneous exercises across the Indo-Pacific.

The 105th Airmen transported 30 Airmen of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing and their gear from the exercise in Europe to the exercise in the Pacific.

The Kentucky Airmen are assigned to the wing’s Contingency Response Team. According to the Air Force, these teams are responsible for setting up and operating airbases in austere locations. They are trained to operate in all weather and can be deployed anywhere in the world on short notice, allowing aircraft to land in as little as four hours.

Air Force officials said this mission marked the first time a contingency response team was moved from Europe to the Pacific without resupply.

“Participating in exercises back-to-back like this allows us to prove we can work in any domain with the same equipment,” said Master Sgt. Darren Wiles, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 123rd Airlift Wing team.

Usually, units will return home to rest and resupply before deploying on another exercise, he said.

“In this case, we wanted to try something new and participate in back-to-back exercises, creating a deployment of almost two months. Moving straight from the European theater to the Pacific theater is fairly uncommon and requires significant flexibility and adaptability,” Wiles explained.

The New York Airmen arrived at Prestwick Air Base in Scotland June 28. The next day, they flew to Wunstorf, Germany, to pick up the 123rd Airmen.

The loadmasters worked diligently to load the 123rd Airmen and their cargo onto the C-17s.

“It took less than three hours to load more than 150,000 lbs. of cargo and 30 passengers between the two aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Christen Mills, loadmaster.

The two aircraft refueled in Kuwait, then flew to Diego Garcia, the U.S. base in the Indian Ocean, to end an almost 20-hour day.

After two days of crew rest, the aircraft continued the mission to drop off the contingency response team. Fifteen Airmen were deployed to Puerto Princesa, Philippines, and 15 Airmen deployed to the U.S. territory of Guam.

“We worked long hours under a tight schedule to deliver the 123rd Contingency Response Team on time,” Kirnan said. “We also faced challenges relating to diplomatic clearances, fuel availability and starting the aircraft in extreme heat. Despite all this, we were able to drop the aircrew off in the Philippines on time.”

After stopping in Hawaii to refuel, the 105th Airmen completed their 22,000-mile journey back to New York.

The 123rd’s Contingency Response Team trained with Filipino forces on special aircraft refueling needs and airfield surveys. These surveys are essential in allowing an aircraft to land on an airfield within 16 hours, Wiles explained.

For the 105th Airlift Wing, this mission presented new challenges as well, Kirnan said.

“The aircraft usually only fly to Europe and back or to the Pacific and back,” said Kirnan. “Bringing the 123rd Airmen from Germany to the Philippines required flying over parts of the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia that the 105th rarely traverses.

“It presented a unique opportunity to figure out a safe and effective route while practicing flying in new parts of the world," she said. "The route also allowed the crew to fly around the entire world, touching all four hemispheres along the way.“