Over four days, approximately 30 Michigan Air National Guard Airmen traveled from Michigan to Germany and then Latvia, practicing deploying for future fights.
Simulating a deployment to a contingency location, the 127th Wing’s Agile Combat Employment team practiced receiving, turning and launching A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft in ways similar to being close to the front line of combat.
“When we travel to a contingency location, we want to get closer to the front lines so we can establish a base in order to get aircraft to and from the fight that much quicker,” said Senior Master Sgt. Adam Dittenber, 127th Maintenance Group’s ACE team lead.
Conducting this training in Latvia gives the Airmen the flexibility to test different plans of action with a state partner’s support and infrastructure. The Michigan National Guard and Latvia have been partners in the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program since it began in 1993.
“Their setup is similar to ours. We can integrate with them seamlessly,” Dittenber said of the Latvian military and Lielvarde Air Base.
The ACE team includes select members from core 127th Maintenance Group fields, such as crew chiefs, avionics, sheet metal, electro-environmental, engines, ammunition and weapons. Members train to conduct their mission while the aircraft engines are running, or hot. These quick turnaround windows, referred to as integrated combat turns, can also include rapid crew swaps when the aircraft lands. The aircrews travel lightly, enabling them to travel in and out of landing sites in just about any geographic area.
“Our team is very low maintenance. We bring everything we need that can fit in two Chinooks, come out here and operate and can do this for a few days if need be,” Dittenber said.
The ACE team is supported by non-maintenance fields such as petroleum, oil and lubricants (known as fuels), medical, intelligence, aircrew flight equipment and the fire department.
“Getting as much practice as possible and working with foreign militaries is really important,” said Senior Airman Scott St Arnaud, a POL journeyman assigned to the 127th Logistics Readiness Squadron. “If we needed to, at a moment’s notice, we could integrate seamlessly with them, and that’s the whole goal of this.”
During the training, the fuels troops oversaw “hot pit” refueling, a critical ICT task that keeps aircraft ready to immediately execute a mission. While the aircraft is running, POL pulls fuel trucks up to the plane and the acting crew chief refuels the A-10.
In a combat situation, the ACE team would get quick notice of a location to travel to and establish their landing site. This would initiate POL to coordinate fuel delivery, Airmen to pack their bags and gear and for the ammunition team to order munitions-building supplies.
“The way this goes is we get our tasker to find out where we are going, we put in the order and make sure all the munitions get delivered,” said Tech. Sgt. James Tennimon, ammunition specialist, 127th Maintenance Squadron.
Ammunition collects their tool listing, materials and munitions and heads to the site. When the ACE team arrives, bomb-building begins. When complete, the team transfers the bombs to the jet.
“Weapons troops and other qualified individuals will pick them up, load them onto the aircraft and then, off she goes,” Tennimon said.