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Reserve tankers among 42 aircraft participating in Sea Lion 11-05

by Staff Sgt. Heather Stanton
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/4/2011 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. (AFNS) -- Air Force Reserve Command KC-135 Stratotankers were among the 42 aircraft that converged in the sky over North and South Carolina to support Operation Sea Lion 11-05, a phase two operational readiness exercise centered at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.

Stratotanker crews from the 916th Air Refueling Wing here, as well as from the 459th ARW, Joint Base Andrews, Md., represented the command.

Also participating in the exercise were aircrews and aircraft from the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, Va., the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 in Beaufort, S.C., the 333rd FS at Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., the 157th FS at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB, the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker AFB, Okla., and the 128th ARW, Wisconsin Air National Guard.

"(So many units are involved) to maximize everyone's training," said Maj. Cameron Nordin, the 20th FW chief of inspections. "We are in a good location geographically, with many different assets in close proximity and the airspace and air-to-ground ranges to accommodate us. The integration of all the assets is exactly how we would fight; therefore this is some of the best training for our Airmen, as well as the other services participating."

The exercise included a strike mission with offensive counter air and suppression-of-enemy-air-defense support, as well as in-air refueling. Scenarios like these are just a few aircrews could experience during real-world contingency operations.

"This is an opportunity to integrate with other assets and sister services, which takes us that step beyond simulation and allows us to derive lessons from our training that we can build on in the future," Major Nordin said. "The pilots are not just benefiting from operating in the same air-to-air and air-to-surface environment as each other, but they are also integrating in the planning process as well."

Seymour Johnson AFB aircrews played a significant role in the exercise because of the F-15 Strike Eagle's unique tactical capabilities and the in-air refueling capabilities of the Stratotanker.

"Operation Sea Lion was a great opportunity for our refueling crews to support a high-visibility, joint training exercise in our own backyard," said Col. Caroline Evernham, the 916th Operations Group commander. "Even though we are in a constant rotational deployment status, these type of stateside exercises allow us to hone our skills and demonstrate our commitment to be a force-multiplier."

"We were able to learn a lot from the integration of our Air Force's different assets as well as those of the Marine Corps," Major Nordin said. "While the tactical lessons learned are the most valuable to us as professional Airmen, we also learned valuable lessons in the mission planning process that will help aid us in organizing these exercises in the future. The 20th Maintenance Group, as well as maintainers from other wings, also deserve great credit. The 20th FW alone put up 24 out of 24 aircraft and, overall, out of the 42 aircraft participating, only one was unable to make the fight."

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