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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota Guard, Reserve conduct contingency ops exercise

Minnesota National Guard MINNEAPOLIS-ST PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION, Minn - Minnesota Air National Guard and Reserve units recently teamed up for a complex six-aircraft contingency operations exercise

The Air Force Reserve's 934th Airlift Wing and the Minnesota National Guard's 133rd Airlift Wing regularly take advantage of their co-location at Minneapolis International Airport to inter-fly and train together, enabling both organizations to take advantage of training opportunities normally available only in large-scale exercises

The two units usually alternate who is in charge of planning the exercises, conducted multiple times a year, and each time the process provides invaluable experience to the aircrews and support agencies involved as they are all able to learn from each other

This mission, planned by the 934th, was one of the most complex to date, according to Major Matt Crawford, 934th AW mission commander After taking off at dusk as a six-ship, the formation conducted a radar verified aerial delivery airdrop in central Wisconsin This capability allows C-130s to deliver equipment to ground forces while flying at low altitude and still enveloped in the clouds

The formation then split into three two-ship formations to conduct low-level flying to practice airdrops using night vision goggles The capabilities of the Hardwood Range Complex and Volk Airfield in Wisconsin also provided simulated threats for the aircrews to defeat that mimicked many real-world scenarios

After practicing assault takeoffs and landings using night vision, the formations then conducted an aerial rejoin back to a six-ship formation for an overhead approach and landing at Minneapolis Following the mission, wing intelligence personnel enhanced their capabilities by debriefing the aircrew on the threats that they saw just like they would after a real combat mission

"For these two units to come together and execute such a complex exercise takes more than precise planning It also takes trust that the other guy will be where they are supposed to be exactly when they are supposed to be there," said Crawford

The importance of the trust developed in these exercises was evident on a recent deployment where the two units found themselves deployed near each other at overseas locations and conducting airdrops in support of ongoing operations It was common for an aircrew from one Minnesota-based unit to be briefed by aircrew of the other before conducting a challenging combat airdrop "It felt good to get such important information from guys that you knew and had flown with," observed Captain Josh Nelson, an instructor pilot with the 934th

As is often the case, the success these units recently had in combat started with training in exercises over the skies of Minnesota and Wisconsin "We always want to push ourselves and not stay satisfied with just practicing the basics," said Captain Brandon Schrader, 934th weapons officer and chief of tactics We have such great resources for awesome training up here and we want to take advantage of it all"

The recent addition of Real-Time-In-Cockpit tactical displays to 934th aircraft will add yet another dimension to this training "These inter-fly missions enable us to provide our aircrews and critical support personnel with seasoning and operational training that will enhance our capabilities and ensure our wings continue to provide the best combat-ready teams to the Air Force mission," said Lt. Col. Chris Sedlacek, 96th Airlift Squadron director of operations

Despite its relatively small size, the facility at Minneapolis Air Reserve Station is a host to a large number of joint Total Force agencies, including the Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, and Marine Corps Reserve In addition to being an ideal location for joint training, its shared use with the Minneapolis Airport allows it to operate at a fraction of the cost to the DOD as a stand-alone military base

May 19, 2015
Maj Ethan Bryant, 96th Airlift Squadron
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