HomeMediaArticle Display

Wisconsin Airmen hone skills under Florida sun

Crews from the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 128th Air Refueling Wing conduct an in-flight refuel with a Marine F-18 Hornet from the Marine Fighter Attack 314 out of Miramar, Calif., Jan. 12, 2012. The Marines served as adversaries to pilots of the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing during simulated combat over the course of a two-week joint training exercise at Naval Air Station Key West, Fla. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue)

Crews from the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 128th Air Refueling Wing conduct an in-flight refuel with a Marine F-18 Hornet from the Marine Fighter Attack 314 out of Miramar, Calif., Jan. 12, 2012. The Marines served as adversaries to pilots of the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing during simulated combat over the course of a two-week joint training exercise at Naval Air Station Key West, Fla. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jon LaDue)

An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Naval Air Station Key West Jan. 10 as part of two-week joint training exercise with the U.S. Marine Corps. More than 150 Airmen from the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing participated in the training Jan 7-21. Wisconsin Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Matt Wunderlin

An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Naval Air Station Key West Jan. 10 as part of two-week joint training exercise with the U.S. Marine Corps. More than 150 Airmen from the Wisconsin Air National Guard's 115th Fighter Wing participated in the training Jan 7-21. Wisconsin Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Matt Wunderlin

MADISON, Wis. -- About 150 Airmen from the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing returned to the white snow of Wisconsin from the white sands of Key West, Fla., following a joint training exercise with the U.S. Marine Corps Jan. 7-21.

The two-week exercise, based out of Naval Air Station Key West, pit the fighter wing's F-16 Fighting Falcons against Marine F-18 Hornets in simulated combat.

Airmen in nearly every aspect of flying, aircraft operations and aircraft maintenance made the trip to take advantage of the near-optimal training conditions - including the time, airspace and weather to support increased training sorties.

"Right now we can get so much more flying and training in than we can do at home station," said Lt. Col. Gary Pelletier, deputy commander of the 115th Maintenance Group. "Everyone's been performing great."

Missing only a few sorties due to weather, 115th Maintenance and other fighter wing support personnel helped pilots log nearly 120 sorties and more than 175 flying hours.

"Key West provides a premier location for accomplishing our defensive counter - air scenarios, due to its combination of superior airspace, ramp space for adversaries, briefing and debriefing capabilities and the integration it provides for our GCI controllers and our range training officers for real time kill removal and training through scenario management," said Col. Erik Peterson, 115th Operations Group commander.

The airspace surrounding Key West provided Madison's fighter pilots the opportunity to train and perform in conditions not available in Wisconsin. For instance, the designated airspace for this exercise is about four times larger than the training airspace in Wisconsin. Also, the elevation cap is boosted significantly from 28,000 to 50,000 feet. These conditions allow for supersonic speeds.

"[Key West] provides an excellent opportunity for flying against the F-16 Fighting Falcon in some of the best air space the country has to offer," said Marine Capt. Michael Huck, F-18 pilot with the Marine Fighter Attack (VFMA) 314 based out of Miramar, Calif.

"The F-16 is a very capable aircraft ... very capable weapons system," Huck said. "So we look to use our tactics and find gaps in those strengths so we can get out there and have a good engagement."

Peterson said he appreciates the value of the exercise and training with the Marines as well.

"The VMFA 314, as an extremely professional organization, provided outstanding adversary support," Peterson said. "It went very, very smooth overall."

For the maintainers specifically, the pace of the exercise provided some very valuable experience across the spectrum of Airmen - from the youngest to the more veteran force. The flying schedule was "6-turn-6," meaning the Airmen launched six of the seven F-16s on station and had only a couple hours to recover, reconfigure and fix any issues before the next six took off.

"Many of our traditional Guard members have not had an opportunity to work day-after-day ... experiencing what actual flying and maintenance operations are really like over more than just one drill weekend," said Capt. Christy Kasten, deputy commander of the 115th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

"The training our traditional Airmen receive on deployments like Key West is highly valuable to them, increasing the knowledge of their job specifically as well as the other areas that support maintenance," she said.

The exercise also enhanced the maintainers' relationship with the pilots and operations personnel - a value that will be extremely beneficial to the fighter wing in the future.

"They were extremely flexible in meeting our flying windows and our aircraft configuration requirements," Peterson said. "They provided the operations group with a solid basis going into the months ahead in preparation for our Operational Readiness Inspection.

Roughly 50 aircrew and support Airmen from the Milwaukee-based 128th Air Refueling Wing, along with three KC-135 Stratotankers, also gained valuable training and supported the exercise by providing in-flight refueling to both the F-16's and F-18's throughout the two-week training.

"They can stay up here, do two flights instead of one, train with multiple units and also practice their in-flight refueling skills as well," said Master Sgt. Will Mattert, in-flight refueler for 128th ARW.

Deploying and sustaining flying operations, involving nearly 150 Airmen and seven fighter jets, to any location is no easy task. In addition to pilots and maintainers, medics, security forces, force support personnel, life support and many other support personnel were on hand to achieve training and contribute to the overall exercise.

"Each and every Airman on this deployment can be proud to know they directly contributed to the success of this exercise," Kasten said.


Additional photos available here.

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.

Department of the Air Force does not exercise any responsibility or oversight of the content at external link destination.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of linked web sites or the information, products, or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and morale, welfare and recreation sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. All links are provided consistent with the mission of this web site.