News: North Carolina Guard Airmen and Soldiers hold joint exercise
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Rey
BRYSON CITY, N.C. - The thunder of North Carolina National Guard AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters mixed with the roar of South Carolina Air National Guard F-16 jets over the mountains of western North Carolina during Operation Snowbird, here, April 21–25.
The exercise tests the readiness of citizen Soldiers and Airmen to deploy and operate in a complex joint forces environment.
“In spite of recent comments by senior Army leaders, this joint exercise clearly shows that in the Apache community, not only is the Guard interchangeable with the active component, but the Guard and its Soldiers are among the most experienced in the force,” said Col. Brian Pierce, NCNG’s state aviation officer.
The Airmen of the NCNG's 118th Air Support Operations Squadron teamed with NCNG Soldiers of the 1-130th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion and Company C, 1st Battalion, 131st Aviation Regiment, F-16C pilots from the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 157th Fighter Squadron located at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, Columbia, South Carolina, and active-duty Airmen from the 14th Air Support Operations Squadron at Pope Field.
“Training like this is beneficial to all parties involved because it allows us to meet our training objectives in a joint environment between the air and ground assets that we must command and control,” said Senior Airman Charles Arbuckle with the 118th.
The training blends the best of both services. The flexibility of ground forces air assault, small unit tactics, reconnaissance and airfield seizure with the airpower of close combat attack and close air support control.
The first mission, capture a high value target at the Macon County Airport. The plan, bring forces in by Black Hawk helicopters escorted by Apache attack helicopters to seize the airfield and interdict vehicles cutting off possible escape routes. The next is an air assault into Cherokee Central School then conduct reconnaissance patrols along the Raven Fork River.
These missions gave the opportunity for a joint air ground integration involving Close Combat Support and Close Air Support from AH-64 Apaches and F-16Cs. The 118th ASOS Airmen established command and control then coordinated for Apaches to execute attacks, conducted reconnaissance of the area and provided security.
These large-scale exercises mimic the modern battlefield. This complex battlefield allows new Tactical Air Control Party Airmen to sharpen their skills and for Joint Terminal Attack Controller Airmen to mentor their new teammates and keep their own combat readiness and proficiency at a high level.
“Despite the misconceptions, Joint Air Ground Integration is a regular occurrence for our North Carolina National Guard Apaches, said Army Capt. Josh Coburn, a training and operations officer with the 1-130th ARB.
“Our flight facility in Morrisville, North Carolina, runs full-time and it allows our part-time pilots and maintenance personnel the ability to conduct individual and collective tasks training outside of their normal drill and annual training. This ensures our organization is always ready and reliable to support our state or nation,” Coburn concluded.
Operation Snowbird, with its complex airspace command and control measures with the F-16 fighters, Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, direct action assaults and skilled reconnaissance, proves that these citizen Soldiers and Airmen are "Always Ready" to deploy anywhere, anytime, against any foe.