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122nd Fighter Wing returns from Exercise Slovak Warthog

122nd Fighter Wing returns from exercise Slovak Warthog

A returning deployed pilot from the 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Fort Wayne, Ind., reunites with family after completing exercise Slovak Warthog, Aug. 03, 2016, at the Indiana Air National Guard Base, Fort Wayne, Ind. Airmen of the 122nd Fighter Wing have been training with the Slovak Air Force to demonstrate close air support capabilities, and conduct familiarization classroom events to enhance integration our two air forces. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. William Hopper)

IN, UNITED STATES -- Airmen from the 122nd have been conducting training and familiarization events along side our NATO ally, Slovakia. A complete flying package of eight A-10C Thunderbolt II “Warthog” aircraft from the 163rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron were deployed for the joint training exercise titled Slovak Warthog. Cross-boarder training with other U.S. Air Force aircraft, NATO aircraft, Slovak ground forces and Indiana Army National Guard ground forces created unique training opportunities all around the region. This deployment continues to demonstrate our commitment to our NATO allies and to European security and stability.

“We have the 122nd Fighter Wing here from Indiana,” said J. Liam Wasley, Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d’ Affaires, U.S. Embassy, Slovakia. “These are citizen soldiers from the Indiana national guard working with Slovak Special Forces on the ground to make sure we can operate in a crisis environment. [They are] flying with Slovak pilots in the Slovak Air Force so that we can learn from their tactics, and they can learn from us. We are learning how to operate in the same space.”

God forbid, if we find ourselves in a crisis situation we will be conducting missions with Slovak and other NATO pilots in a joint environment, said Wasley. This is one of the most picturesque examples of what we are training with the Slovak armed forces for, building cooperation with the U.S. and other NATO allies.

The State Partnership Program has been successfully building relationships for decades that includes 70 unique partnerships involving 76 nations around the globe. The state of Indiana was paired with Slovakia 23 years ago and has had a blossoming partnership since then.

“As a state partner, we have been doing exchanges with them for over 20 years,” said Col. Patrick R. Renwick, 122nd Fighter Wing Commander. “This is the first time I know of that we have deployed an aviation package to an airbase in Slovakia with our state partner. The over 20 year relationship with the Slovak republic for the state partnership program is where we do military to military exchanges of ideas, tactics, techniques, procedures and how to work on them together as NATO partners.”

“Internally our objectives were to come over here and get to know our Slovak partners,” Said Col. Kyle Noel, 122nd Operations Group Commander. “We have had a robust relationship for 23 years now with Slovakia. Our Air Guardsmen and our Army National Guardsmen have been coming over and visiting on a regular basis. What we haven’t been able to do is have a big aviation package like this where we actually brought eight A-10s with us this time.”

The state partnership program has proven to be a key player in Operation Atlantic Resolve and the European reassurance initiative, said Renwick. Initially there was a chance we may have deployed somewhere else, but we made sure the 122nd would come to Slovakia to train with our state partner. I couldn’t be more pleased with how our Airmen and our Slovak hosts have performed during this exercise. The relationship we have had with Slovakia over the last 20 years has proven to be productive and is an important part of the NATO alliance.

We are so excited to be here operating in an environment we haven’t operated in before, said Renwick. The synergistic effect of our training with the Slovaks has been exponential. Anytime two separate countries' forces come together, you need to look at how to operate together to be more effective on the battlefield. This deployment has taken some great strides in identifying where we are doing really well and what we could improve on.

“We had our challenges but I think we overcame them, really through the help of our Slovak partners,” said Lt. Col. Eduardo Castaneda, 163rd Fighter Squadron Commander. “They did a fantastic job welcoming us and setting up multiple logistical things here in Slovakia.”

The United States armed forces maintain a global presence through the combined contributions of our active duty, Air National Guard and Reserve partners. Deployments such as Exercise Slovak Warthog provide strategic access to Europe allowing the continuation of our NATO commitment to respond to threats against our allies and partners. 

“We fall under Operation Atlantic Resolve, which is a subset of the European reassurance initiative,” said Noel. “It shows commitment to our NATO allies to come over here and train beside them jointly, showing we can operate together in a common environment. That way if we ever have to come together and fight in a war on the battlefield we are prepared to do so.”

Strategically, NATO exercises such as this deter aggression from a resurgent Russia, said Noel. We are here to show them our commitment to NATO allies, and our resolve to protect the European continent and fight along side them if necessary. 

As partner nations with NATO, the United States and the Slovak republic have an interest in European security and stability, said Renwick. We are peaceful in nature, but we also demonstrate our resolve. Operation Atlantic Resolve helps stabilize the entire NATO alliance when the United States works with our NATO partner Slovakia to demonstrate the capability to operate together seamlessly in a joint environment. 

All together, when you look at the joint training exercise we were able to accomplish together, it allowed us to train on a higher level than we had been able to achieve previously, said Noel. Tactically, our objectives were to learn how our Slovak partners fight so we will be able to better integrate and fight along side them if necessary.

Airmen from the 122nd Fighter Wing continually train at home station to be ready to deploy at a moment's notice in times of crisis both domestically and abroad. National Guardsmen routinely train in a variety of disciplines so they can be ready to operate overseas with the same proficiency and excellence as their active-duty counterparts, but at a fraction of the cost. 

I couldn’t be prouder of the Airmen of the 122nd Fighter Wing, and I am humbled to be their commander, said Renwick. These folks are true professionals. As Guardsmen, we do things for pennies on the dollar. The part-time nature of our service, with the full-time commitment that we have as Guardsmen has huge fiscal benefits. All the efforts that they put forward culminated last year in the award of the 122nd Fighter Wing as the recipients of the highly regarded Spaatz trophy, which is for the best flying wing in the Air National Guard. The awarding of the Spaatz trophy is a direct result of efforts of our Airmen. I can’t describe how much the dedication and true professionalism from our Airmen means to our community, state, nation and national security objectives.

“Our job at the 122nd Fighter Wing is to provide decisive combat firepower for combatant commanders worldwide,” said Renwick. “And we do that in fine fashion.”