Flying Down Under with the RAAF

  • Published
  • By TSgt Betty J. Squatrito-Martin
The 199th Fighter Squadron marked the beginning of the end of the F-15 era with a recent deployment to Australia in support of Exercise Sentry Down Under Sept. 3-22.

Sentry Down Under, a joint exercise between the HIANG and the Australian Air Force, gave more than 100 HIANG members an opportunity to train in unfamiliar surroundings and to support Australian Air Force's Weapons Officer's course.

"We pulled people out of their comfort zone, out of the home environment where they are very comfortable with unlimited resources and put them in an environment with a limited number of personnel, a few airplanes, and limited parts," said Lt. Col. Glen Nakamura, detachment commander for Sentry Down Under.

In the course of training, supply and communications challenges, and other unexpected events crept into the operations.

"Having unplanned events actually prepares us better for combat," said Lt. Col. Nakamura. "It teaches us to operate and think outside the box."

"It's all about getting the mission done, one team, one fight," added Lt. Col. Nakamura.

Every deployment is like practice for the real thing, building up your equipment and being able to operate away from home, said Chief Master Sgt. Craig Harimoto, who was in charge of ground safety during Sentry Down Under.

While the HIANG was learning how to overcome adversity and operate outside the box, the Australian Air Force honed their aviator skills.

"The Guard is working with us for counter air defense exercises," said Wing Commander Phil Gordon, Commanding Officer No 2 Operational Conversion Unit.

"They're flying both as good guys and adversary aircraft, giving us realistic threat simulations," he added.

"The Australian pilots have been fantastic. They're outstanding aviators," said Lt. Col. Nakamura.

According to Wing Commander Gordon, the high quality of the next generation of weapons officers that the Royal Australian Air Force will produce will be, in no small part, due to the Guard.