CORAOPOLIS, Pa. --
The 258th Air Traffic Control Squadron attended a multinational, joint exercise, Defender Europe-22, with NATO and other military partners, June 2022.
Spanning across several months, the exercise focused on building operational readiness and interoperability between allies and partners to train as they fight. The Airmen from the 258th went to Lithuania to collaborate with the Lithuanian Air Force and share their expertise on air traffic control operations and capabilities.
“We are sharing our capabilities and working together to become more efficient. We are collaborating and placing an emphasis on modernization, especially with equipment,” said Capt. Benjamin Kaufman, an airfield operations officer at the 258th.
While the Airmen from the 258th worked directly with the Lithuanians, the exercise consisted of more than 8,000 total participants from 11 different countries. Over 1,200 Guardsmen were a part of the exercise activities.
“It’s important to see things at our level and how we fit into the bigger picture as a whole,” said Master Sgt. Frankie Perez, a mobile tower chief controller at the 258th.
“It was an amazing experience to walk in and see all the different flags on people’s shoulders knowing we are working together,” said Kaufman.
Throughout the exercise, participating countries practiced many different operations, such as live ammunition exercises, road marches, river crossings and more. The members of the 258th partnered with Lithuania on airfield operations as a part of the State Partnership Program, which is a joint program where states have specific countries they work with in order to increase cooperation and collaborative efforts.
“It was great to communicate our capabilities—what capabilities we have, what we can learn from each other, and even how we can work together in the future,” said Perez.
With all of the moving pieces in a large-scale exercise, extensive support from each of the host nations is imperative.
“It was impactful to see all of the different NATO countries involved in the exercise. With our State Partnership Program visit, we were able to discuss how our future engagement could benefit both the Lithuanians and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard,” said Kaufman.