March 7, 2010 (by A1C Sarah Mattison) - On January 9th, The Green Mountain Boys of The Vermont Air National Guard deployed to Tucson, Arizona for Operation Snowbird.
Airmen from the 158FW, Vermont ANG, prepare for an operational readiness inspection during Operation Snowbird at Davis-Monthan AFB on January 19th, 2010. [USAF photo by A1C. Sarah Mattison]
This is the second time in three years that the 158th Fighter Wing traveled to Davis Monthan Air Force Base (AFB
) for training to take advantage of mild climate and terrain without the worry of extreme winter conditions.
Operation Snowbird is a National Guard Bureau program which started in 1975. The Snowbird Compound, a detachment of the 162nd Fighter Wing, is located on Davis Monthan AFB. Visiting units take advantage of the warmer weather between the months of October and May, typically training for two weeks at a time.
Two hundred and twenty six Airmen to include 20 pilots, members from Services, Maintenance, Admin, Ops, POL, Security, NDI, Supply, TMO, and Multimedia/PA deployed to Arizona. Twelve F-16s were also part of the deployed package. This training event gave a variety of shops an opportunity to work together in a deployed environment.
"The 2007 training was a spin up for our deployment to Iraq" said Lt. Col. Michael Ahmann, the 158th FW Detachment Commander, referring to the previous Snowbird deployment. "This training is geared specifically to the ORI in March" Ahmann continued.
"This is a training opportunity that we couldn't get in Vermont" said Chief Master Sgt. Tim Brisson, the NCOIC of the deployment. "The great weather creates great training conditions. It gives us an opportunity to gear up for the ORI and to train together as a team. It is a great team building experience."
The pilots rehearsed defensive counter air maneuvers flying in conjunction with the Marine Fighter Training Squadron from Yuma Arizona. They also trained on close air support and interdiction maneuvers. They flew a three day surge, which generated 26 sorties a day, for three days. This allowed them to meet 100% of the lines until the third day in which stormy conditions held them to just 50%.
"Apparently Vermont weather follows us" stated Ahmann. "We brought the snow with us in 2007 and hurricane force winds with us yesterday."
Snowbird is located next to one of the best airspace range complexes in the world; the Barry M. Goldwater Range Complex.
Maj. Scott Seigfried, the Project Officer for the deployment said, "This allows us to employ both live and inert ordinance in a tactical scenario that we would not be able to do at home station."
During the first week of training the pilots were given an opportunity to drop live bombs, which also helped use up their allocation for the year. They also had an opportunity to work with the joint terminal air controllers who are the guys on the ground calling in the air strikes.
Snow Bird also gave an opportunity for Airmen on the ground to work with live bombs.
"The coolest thing I got to do was load live bombs. It was good to get live training, I haven't had any up until now" said Airman 1st Class John Candido, who works in Aircraft Armament Systems (weapons).
The second week of Snowbird was utilized as a training opportunity for the upcoming ORI. The schedule called for 24 hour operations, and primarily everyone to work a 12 hour day or evening shift.
"We are one of the few units that bring their own Services. It gives our Services a chance to interact with Aviation" Brisson said. With only two people working per 12 hour shift, two meals were prepared each day to feed the 226 Green Mountain Boys. Not only did Services go out to purchase the food and prepare the meals, they also made sure to keep a stockpile of snacks, water and Gatorade on hand for the Airmen on the flight line.
"One of the biggest differences in this deployment to Snowbird is that the maintenance package was bigger" said Capt. Adrian Meyer, the Maintenance OIC. "We usually have about 125 people and eight to ten F-16's. This time we brought 226 people and had 12 F-16's."