Editor’s Note: We have worked with the professionals of South Dakota Air National Guard’s 114th Fighter Wing before, and they are first rate. In fact, we enjoyed the experience so much, we’ll soon be traveling to Sioux Falls to do a more in-depth feature story on the 175th Fighter Squadron and what makes them unique amongst other Guard units. That being said, our friends from the Lobos have been traveling quite a bit, most recently taking part in Exercise Sentry Savannah 16-1!

Eleven F-16s and approximately 175 Airmen of the 114th Fighter Wing, South Dakota Air National Guard, participated in Sentry Savannah 16-1 held here at the Savannah Combat Readiness Training Center, Ga.

Sentry Savannah is the Air National Guard’s largest Fighter Integration, air-to-air training exercise encompassing fourth and fifth generation aircraft.

Also taking part in this exercise are Airmen of the 43rd Fighter Squadron and the 2nd Fighter Squadron, from Tyndall AFB, Fl. Supporting these fighter squadrons are KC-135’s from the 190th Air Refueling Wing, Kansas Air National Guard, the 161st ARW, Arizona Air National Guard, and controllers of the 117th Air Control Squadron, Georgia Air National Guard.

“This exercise gives us an opportunity to bring all the pieces of the puzzle together” said Major Jeremy Doohen, project officer for the deployment and 175th Fighter Squadron pilot. “The joint cooperation between the Active Duty and the Guard is an important element of us training with these 5th generation fighters.”

An F-16 from the 114th Fighter Wing, South Dakota Air National Guard launches from the runway at the Savannah CRTC during the Sentry Savannah execise Feb. 1, 2016. The unit, along with other units of the Active Air Force and Air National Guard spent two weeks at the CRTC training together. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Nancy Ausland/Released)

In the event that the unit does progress in the future to the F-35 aircraft, these types of deployments give the members of the unit an advance look into the 5th generation fighters they may someday fly and maintain.

This is the first time the 114th FW has participated in Sentry Savannah. It gives the pilots of the unit an opportunity to integrate in a Large Force Exercise with 5th generation aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor from Tyndall AFB. Missions include defensive counter-air, offensive counter-air, and cruise missile defense. They also benefit from the dissimilar basic fighter maneuvering they do with the F-22’s.

“Seeing what the F-22 can do, and how we integrate with them, has been an eye-opening experience.” commented Lt. Col. Travis Boltjes, 175th Fighter Squadron pilot. “I’m glad to know that the capability they bring to the fight is on our side.”

The Savannah CRTC is a unique military air training facility and an element of the Georgia Air National Guard. The facility is one of four CRTC’s that the Air National Guard operates and it gives unit’s like the 114th FW an opportunity to train in a new environment and with members of other active duty and guard units from across the U.S.

Major Jeremy Doohen, Sentry Savannah Project Officer for the 175th FS “Lobos,” readies his Block 40 F-16C for a training mission. (Photo by Scott Wolff)

Along with the pilots, aircraft maintainers also benefit from deploying to the CRTC.

“The repetition that is gained on deployments like this can’t be experienced by many traditional guard members home station.” said Lt. Col. Kevin Curley, 114th Maintenance Group officer in charge.

Because the members of the unit normally only serve one weekend a month, these two week deployments are invaluable for training. As a team, the members are a captive audience and get the opportunity to experience what it is like to have all types of issues arise and how they will be resolved.

“Every shop is proving their value on this trip, we have been extremely busy in the maintenance areas,” said Curley. “They start and end each day together and get a chance to work on components of the process they may not see back home on a Guard Drill weekend.  It really builds comradery.”

The original article by Senior Master Sgt. Nancy Ausland, 114th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, can be viewed here.