CORAOPOLIS, Pa. --
As a year comes to an end, we often reflect on the previous year’s happenings and think about what made that year. Thoughts tend to encompass the highs and lows of events throughout the year.
Reflecting on 2020, we all know it was anything but typical. While typical is not the usual descriptor for the work the 171st Air Refueling Wing produces, the impact of COVID-19 provided more obstacles for everyone. But, with hard work and dedication, the wing continued to make significant contributions towards training, homeland response efforts, and overseas deployments.
Training is vital for success. It can be difficult and take long hours, but members of the guard do it with pride. The 171st participated in numerous training activities and exercises throughout the year to ensure preparedness. For example, what may seem like a routine training flight from afar is actually a mission to provide 100 thousand pounds of fuel to a B-1B Lancer. These training activities and others directly inform and provide readiness towards homeland response capabilities. Whether it was working with the Marine Corps to complete emergency medical response training or flying aircraft during Global Thunder 21, an exercise designed to employ global operations in coordination with other combatant commands, the 171st ARW stood ready.
Demonstrating their commitment, guard members continue to make significant homeland response contributions. In addition to completing 3,942 flying hours, other support functions include direct support of COVID-19. The guard distributed 890 million masks, gloves, gowns and other personal protective equipment. At the 171st, the aircrew flight equipment shop, along with other members, made approximately 600 masks in support of the pandemic. Supporting our local communities continues to be a steady focus, but the 171st also contributes to overseas deployments.
Guard members have supported more than 1.1 million overseas deployments since 9/11. The 171st ARW has numerous deployments each year resulting in hundreds of individuals traveling around the world each year. Unexpected events can occur during these deployments, like when crewmembers from the 171st contributed to the rescue of three mariners who went off course and ran out of fuel leaving them stranded on a tiny island south of Guam. Experiences such as this demonstrate the importance of the preparedness of the guard.
This year brought significant challenges to Americans across the globe. As 2020 comes to a close, members of 171st and Air National Guard remain always ready.