Hawaii ANG, active duty Airmen join European partners in Swift Response 19

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman John Linzmeier
  • 154th Wing Public Affairs

Airmen assigned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam flew airlift missions throughout Europe June 13-21, for an international-crisis-response exercise, Swift Response 19.

This is the second time a total-force team from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing and the active-duty 15th Wing participated in the exercise with multinational forces in a series of airdrops.

Swift Response is recognized as one of the premier military crisis response training events for airborne forces around the world. This iteration included approximately 5,600 participants from eight allied nations that trained in Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania, with staging bases in Germany, Italy, Slovenia and the United Kingdom, from June 13-25. 

“Swift Response has been a great overall experience,” said 1st Lt. Justin Sato, 204th Airlift Squadron pilot. “The execution of multiple missions with the Army and international military members showed me how effective we can be as a cohesive force.”

Daily operations for the Hawaii-based Airmen began and ended at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where they loaded war-fighting assets onto a C-17 Globemaster III. Each payload included a team of U.S. Army paratroopers along with their support equipment, with some loads including 17,000-pound artillery units. 

The exercise featured two overnight, joint forcible entry operations; entailing the insertion of hundreds of U.S., Italian and Spanish paratroopers into drops zones. Both operations were made possible through an armada of C-17 and C-130 aircraft, flown by aircrews from Canada, Italy, Spain, NATO and other U.S. Air Force units. 

The JFE movements involved U.S. Army paratroopers with the 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade and 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, who jumped alongside international forces.

“We’re always looking forward to jumping with our partners, and these guys [the 204th AS] have made it a very smooth operation for us so far,” said Texas Army National Guard Capt. Ryan Crider, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade jumpmaster. “The idea behind airlift is it allows us to secure our objective, such as an airfield, and bring as much combat power to the fight as quickly as possible. Afterward, we’re going to move out to more rugged training areas so we can destroy our common threat.” 

After his team leaped off the C-17 and into darkness, the Soldiers began a field training exercise and joined forces with Soldiers from Germany and the Netherlands. Crider said the field conditions were designed to be severe, to simulate the challenges his troops may face in a real battlefield environment. 

While the airdrops were carried out by pilots and loadmasters with the 204th AS, maintenance Airmen from the 154th Maintenance Squadron played an integral role in the successful airdrops. These specialists and crew chiefs accrued more working hours on the Globemaster than any aircrew member, making sure the aircraft was mission-ready when called upon.

In addition, a small team from the 154th Maintenance Squadron flew with the aircrew as flying crew chiefs during each JFE, to ensure inflight airworthiness is maintained while also making certain the aircraft could arrive and depart safely from each remote location. One of these flying crew chiefs was Staff Sgt. Michelle Ganoy, who said she volunteered for the additional responsibility so she can be involved with a broader mission-set. 

“This was my first time going up as a flying crew chief for an airdrop,” said Ganoy, “being a part of missions like these are a great reminder of how important every role is in mission readiness.” 

While exercise Swift Response is held in a time zone that’s 12 hours separate from the Hawaii islands, the Hawaii Air National Guard remains capable of joining partners in a total-force fight whenever they’re called upon; whether their global reach is needed amongst allies in Europe or any other given continent.