JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
More than 250 D.C. Air National Guard Airmen recently returned from a successful deployment to the Indo-Pacific region in support of a theater security package designed to ensure warfighter capability and foster partnerships in the area.
“We accomplished numerous security packages in the past with Australia and Guam, but the proximity of our location to the potential threats in the area really sharpened our focus on the mission at hand,” said Lt. Col. Matt McDonough, 121st Fighter Squadron commander. “We know that countries such as China are a ‘near-peer’ to us in terms of firepower and finance, so for us to fly missions 60 miles south of a potential threat such as North Korea really brought the reality home as to the impact of our mission.”
The Airmen were comprised of a multitude of career fields including pilots, maintenance personnel, operations and more. While the majority were from the 113th Wing, D.C. Air National Guard and assigned to support the 8th Fighter Wing, Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, they joined forces with Airmen from the 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard, and the 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard. According to McDonough, integration with the Air National Guard Airmen and their active duty counterparts stationed in the Republic of Korea was seamless.
“Every day we would see ANG maintenance personnel perform daily activities with the active duty side and even help them improve upon their mission capability rates due to the sheer experience of our Guardsmen,” McDonough said. “We stood out in producing the amount and quality of flying sorties and our seasoned pilots were able to help upgrade many of the active duty pilots.”
While the majority of the deployment was spent at Kunsan Air Base, the DCANG Airmen were able to re-deploy to the Philippines for the seventh iteration of Bilateral Air Contingent Exchange-Philippines, or BACE-P, at Cesar Basa Air Base for 12 days of bilateral training between the U.S. and Philippine Air Forces. This year marked the first time the U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons were folded into the training.
“Having the F-16 fighter at Cesar Basa Air Base allowed us to interact with our Philippine Air Force partners along with their FA-50s, and in turn helped to strengthen our interoperability and training with a key partner,” said Col. Christopher Faurot, BACE-P 13th Expeditionary Air Squadron commander. “Through this engagement, our bilateral forces increased their interoperability and our partners demonstrated that they are a disciplined, professional and highly motivated force.”
Further, Airmen also participated in subject matter exchanges on topics such as crash recovery, communications and flight line maintenance. The exchanges, which promote interoperability, reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific region and strengthen the U.S.-Philippines alliance.
“Bilateral engagement really matters,” said Lt. Col. Tom Kanewske, 121st Fighter Squadron pilot. “We’ve really focused on the sharing of best practices, so whether it’s our air-to-air and air-to-ground training with them as pilots or also reaching out to their ground forces (forward air controllers, survival specialists), it’s that level of engagement we don’t normally get in the international bilateral format.”
Upon return from deployment, the overall sentiment from the DCANG Guardsmen was one of success and accomplishment. The training gained, mission capable rates above average, and the chance to participate in flying exercises in both the Republic of Korea and the Philippines, ensured the DCANG to be ready and able to support any requests in the region in the years to come.
“We did well and this particular theater security package really highlighted us as a unit well,” McDonough said. “Whether it was a pilot, maintainer or any other skillset out there, people really felt proud of their accomplishments.”