Airmen throttle up for East Coast fighter exercise 'Sentry Savannah'

Savannah Combat Readiness Training Center
Story by Master Sgt. Jon LaDue

Date: 02.11.2015
Posted: 02.12.2015 22:40
News ID: 154399
Sentry Savannah 15-1

SAVANNAH, Ga. - The skies along the southeastern coast may look and sound a little different this week as more than 1,400 service members begin a large-scale aerial training exercise.

Exercise Sentry Savannah 15-1 will test the mettle of pilots from the Air Force, Air National Guard and Marines during the two-week, joint training exercise being held at Savannah's Air Dominance Center (ADC) Feb. 9 -20.

"It's going to be something to behold -- if you live on the coast, you're going to be seeing fighters all up and down the coast," said Maj. Gen. Thomas Moore, commander of the Georgia Air National Guard. "They're going to be cool, they're going to be fast and they're going to be loud so be prepared."

The exercise includes nearly 80 aircraft consisting mostly of fighters, tankers, and trainers. It's old school versus new school in a way as the fourth generation F-15 and F-16 will fly with and against fifth generation fighters in the F-22 and F-35 in an exhibition the Air Dominance Center proudly dubs as "Fighter Integration" training.

"It's a great opportunity for us to work with other airplanes, both in the Air National Guard and the Marines and other assets that the military has to offer," said Lt. Col. Curt Grayson, 148th Detachment commander out of Duluth, Minnesota. "Obviously, up North it's hard to get guys to come up there in the winter time so we usually come down to the southern states to fly and enjoy the weather and use the good weather to our advantage."

In addition to warmer weather, the pilots operating from the Air Dominance Center can reach a vast airspace over the Atlantic Ocean in a matter of minutes where pilots can maneuver and travel at supersonic speeds up to an altitude of 60,000 feet.

The Air Dominance Center is also an ideal location for large-scale Fighter Integration training because it can include participants from other aviation units stationed along the East Coast.

"Within about one hundred miles of Savannah there's about 15 other fighter squadrons that fly indigenously ... so when one fighter unit comes in here they can coordinate and do dissimilar air combat training with all of those units that fly around here on a daily basis," said Maj. Merrick Baroni, ADC director of operations.

Sentry Savannah 15-1 consists of Air National Guard F-16 flying squadrons from Minnesota, South Carolina and the District of Columbia, an F-15 unit from the Florida Air National Guard, T-38 and F-22 aircraft from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and Marine F/A-18 and F-35s from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina.

Sentry Savannah is a National Guard Bureau sponsored event hosted by the Georgia Air National Guard's revamped and newly-named Air Dominance Center. Officials from NGB expect to conduct at least three of these exercises per year as part of the Regional Exercise program which aims to provide traditional Guard pilots with much of their wartime readiness training in a matter of two weeks.

The program has the support of Air Combat Command as well as those who contributed to the ADC's new operations building that sits adjacent to a new parking ramp as well.

Previously named the Savannah Combat Readiness Training Center, the amenities to host such a large exercise remain as the ADC is able to provide economical and logistical support to pilots, maintainers and other exercise support personnel.

This allows Sentry Savannah 15-1 participants to focus on the task at hand which includes a projected 750 sorties over the two-week exercise.

"I'm really proud of the guys and gals that have done this and I think this is going to be a world class event," Moore said. "It's a big feather in the cap for the Georgia Air National Guard and for the Georgia Air Dominance Center."