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ANG highlights interoperability capabilities at every level

  • Published
  • By Sgt. Armando A. Schwier-Morales
  • U.S. Air Force in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs
Airmen from three National Guard units took to the skies to support 13 nations in developing and ensuring a stable Baltic region during Saber Strike 15, June 9.

Two KC-135 Stratotankers and their crews from Michigan and Pennsylvania joined A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from Maryland to provide close air support and keep that close air support flying longer.

Even though the exercise involves more than 6,000 military members working on their interoperability, the two guard units are finding ways to be more efficient among themselves in order to get air support to other participants.

"No matter how similar they try to make it, everybody operates differently from the start," said Master Sgt. Gilbert Ruffing, Pennsylvania ANG maintenance superintendant. "What you do is (practice by) working together and finding out each others strengths and weaknesses then you come up with a plan where you all do it the same. This way when you are in a real world situation you get better and better ... and have consistency and can find ways of doing better business."

Ruffing echoes the suberb efforts of air guardsmen who have worked through equipment, aircraft and skill obstacles in a matter of days to become an efficient part of the larger machine.

"I think we have been able to bring everybody together using what they know," said Maj. Damon Antonetti, Pennsylvania ANG KC-135 pilot. "We meshed together well and are getting the job done.  It's been great working with the Michigan ANG, they have been a good host to us. They are the lead unit, and they have good leadership."

Working with 55 plus year old aircraft a few things are bound to break, however, this has not hampered the support provided by this critial air power platform during Saber Strike 15. Their ability to be flexible and work and fix problems together has enabled the ANG to continue providing fuel and air cover, maintaining subsequent missions that rely on the refuelers to complete their critical missions.

"That is our contribution to the war, to the effort and to the mission, is supporting that fighter, that bomber and that cargo aircraft so they can press on and continue to do their business. Knowing that we do that is a great feeling," said Ruffing.

No matter the aircraft, equipment, what part breaks, or the size of the unit, Saber Strike 15 enables interoperability between ally and partner nations, strengthening the bonds at all levels in order to effectively complete the mission.