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Hawaiian Raptors wrap up temporary deployment to Iwakuni

U.S Air Force Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron fly alongside a USAF KC-135 Stratotanker from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron during 5th generation fighter training near Mt. Fuji, Japan, April 1, 2021.

U.S Air Force Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron fly alongside a USAF KC-135 Stratotanker from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron during 5th generation fighter training near Mt. Fuji, Japan, April 1, 2021. The F-22 Raptors are currently operating out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, to support the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s dynamic force employment concept. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rebeckah Medeiros)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --

Dozens of operations, maintenance, and support Airmen along with a contingent of F-22 Raptors returned home to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam April 4, following a near-month long temporary duty assignment at Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station, Japan.

While in Japan, the Hawaiian Raptors, a Total Force Integration unit composed of Airmen from the Hawaii Air National Guard (HIANG) 154th Wing and the active-duty 15th Wing, conducted local area training with U.S. Marine Corps and Japan Air Self-Defense Force units.

“Our focus at MCAS, Iwakuni has been on fighter integration with F-35Bs and F-18s, combat representative large force employment and joint interoperability,” said Lt. Col. Brian Nash, 199th Fighter Squadron commander. “It allowed our pilots and maintainers to train alongside one another, learn and apply best practices and ensure the joint force remains agile and responsive in the Pacific.”

The exercise was an execution of the Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment concept of operations. Through ACE, the Air Force is able to demonstrate global reach and agility by being able to quickly respond and provide combat air power to support the U.S. commitment to regional security and stability.

ACE concepts have evolved through the years, however the core principles of agility, resiliency, and deterrence have remained constant. These core tenets are the exact reason why operations like the one performed by the Hawaiian Raptors and other U.S forces in the Indo-Pacific are key to ensuring they are postured to respond across the spectrum of military operations.

“This exercise demonstrates the Total Force’s ability to rapidly and unpredictably project combat power to a place and time of our choosing.” Nash said.

Along with other aerial refueling units, KC-135 Stratotankers assigned to the HIANG’s 203rd Air Refueling Squadron helped provide the air bridge across the Pacific, effectively ‘dragging’ the Raptors to and from their temporary roost in Iwakuni.

While the fighters traversed the Pacific, Airmen and equipment were not far behind, riding the wings of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft operated by Team Hickam’s Airlift Squadrons.

“Maintenance, operations, logistics, and support all came through to make this operation happen,” Nash said. “Up and down the enterprise, you saw it. There’s an element of complexity in endeavors such as this and I think the TFI construct combined with our in-house capabilities positioned us uniquely to execute this mission.”

Through the years, Team Hickam has built up its ACE experience. Training events such as a recent C-17 refueling of an F-22 serve to hone the ACE expertise of all involved. Although the Iwakuni operation was the most recent, it’s sure not to be the last.

“I can say that this has been a very transformative experience towards the way we do business,” said Nash. “With each successive ACE event, we learn, and we become more efficient and effective each time.”

The first groups of Airmen and equipment arrived home during Easter weekend, with further ‘batches’ scheduled for homecoming over the course of the next few weeks.