May 30, 2019 (by SSgt. Joshua Horton) - More than 90 Airmen and three C-130 Hercules aircraft from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing participated here in Immediate Response 2019, a multinational exercise co-led by Croatian Armed Forces, Slovenian Armed Forces and U.S. Army Europe.
Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft conduct a nonstandard-load training flight in the airspace above Venice, Italy, May 20, 2019, while carrying equipment from U.S. Army Europe’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team as part of Immediate Response 2019. [ANG photo by SSgt. Horton]
The purpose of the annual exercise, held this year from May 9 to 22, is to build multinational readiness, enhance military-to-military relationships and improve interoperability between land forces to provide mutual assurance, deter regional aggression, and support a balanced approach to security and stability in the Balkan region.
Maj. Trevor Sutherland, the 123rd’s air mission commander, said the exercise provided invaluable experience working with multiple partners.
“It validates all of our strategic plans,” said Sutherland, a pilot in the wing’s 165th Airlift Squadron. “You have our people interfacing with the Army and all these different agencies, and they were very impressed with the way our unit leaned forward.”
The exercise included approximately 6,000 participants from 15 nations including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In addition to improving relationships and interoperability with allies and partners, the exercise also provided a good training opportunity for newer Airmen, said Master Sgt. Hunter Hurd, a flightline production controller for the 123rd Maintenance Group and production superintendent for the mission.
“I think this was an excellent training experience; it really shows the younger folks why they went to school for as long as they did and why they worked those long hours,” Hurd said. “They can see the fruits of their labor in the sorties that the aircrews are flying.”
Airman Tanner D. Soward, a new aviation resource management Airman for the 123rd Operations Group, agreed.
“It was great being able to work with other units and countries,” Soward said. “I learned a lot about doing my job without using the systems that we have back home.”
Immediate Response ’19 promotes regional stability and security, while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust, officials said. The combined training provides opportunities to improve interoperability among participating allies and regional partners.