Michigan ANG Deploys to Estonia

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Approximately 150 Citizen-Airmen of the Michigan Air National Guard are deploying to Estonia for two weeks to support Saber Strike 2012, a multi-national exercise this month in Estonia and Latvia. The deployment will include A-10 Thunderbolt II and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft from Selfridge Air National Guard Base and personnel from the 127th Wing at Selfridge, the 110th Airlift Wing in Battle Creek, the Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena and Michigan Joint Forces Headquarters in Lansing. The exercise promotes regional stability and security, strengthens international military partnering and fosters trust while improving interoperability between participating nations.

The exercise is taking place in mid-June.

"In this exercise, we will not only be integrating and working closely with the U.S. Army, but also working alongside our allies in Estonia, Latvia and several other European nations," said Col. Michael Thomas, the 127th Wing commander at Selfridge. "This exercise is also somewhat unique for us in that it integrates personnel from every portion of the Michigan Air National Guard and two different types of aircraft."

Saber Strike 2012 involves approximately 2,000 personnel from eight countries. This, the second year of the Saber Strike exercise program, is part of an ongoing cooperative training effort primarily focused on the three nations of the Baltic States: Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. This exercise prepares participants to operate successfully in a joint, multinational, integrated environment with host-nation support from civil and governmental agencies. In addition to the U.S. Army Europe, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, other participants include: Canada, Finland, France and the UK.

The Michigan Air National Guard will be providing close-air-support to the operation via the A-10 and will provide aerial refueling capabilities to the overall exercise via the KC-135. Both types of aircraft are in high demand by theater commanders around the world and 127th Wing personnel have deployed with both types of aircraft to Afghanistan and surrounding areas during 2012.

"An added benefit to participating in this operation is the opportunity to further strengthen Michigan's long-standing partnership with the people of Latvia," Thomas said.

The Latvian military and the Michigan National Guard are partners in the State Partnership for Peace program. This year marks the 20th anniversary of that partnership. The SPP was established to help former Eastern Bloc countries transition to democracy following the collapse of the Soviet Union by linking the National Guard forces of several states with the militaries of those countries. The program has since been expanded to other parts of the world and includes more than 60 partnerships between state National Guards and foreign militaries. Michigan recently added a second partnership with Liberia in Africa.

The 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard is comprised of approximately 1,700 Citizen-Airmen assigned to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in metropolitan Detroit. The 127th provides highly skilled Airmen in support of Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command and Air Force Special Operations Command. The Wing flies the KC-135 Stratotanker, an aerial refueling aircraft that gives the Air Force global reach, and the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a close-air-support attack aircraft more popularly known as the Warthog.