Approximately 150 Airmen assigned to the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin participated in joint-international training at Naval Air Station Key West.
Throughout the two-week training, which concluded May 18, Wisconsin Air National Guardsmen and their active duty counterparts worked side-by-side with members of the U.S. Navy, Arizona Air National Guard and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
“Anytime we are able to pick up, go somewhere and execute the mission in a joint-combined environment is always great for everyone,” said Lt. Col. Zachary Griswold, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot and the officer in-charge for the 115th Fighter Wing.
Due to NAS Key West’s unique location, airspace and ability to host a wide array of different airframes, the 115th Fighter Wing was able to engage in training that can’t be replicated at Volk Field Air National Guard Base or other local training facilities.
“With Key West’s training ranges being located primarily over water, a lot of the altitude and speed restrictions we have when flying in Wisconsin are removed,” said Maj. Victor McCoy, an F-16 pilot with the 115th Fighter Wing. “It’s pretty awesome when we get the chance to fly supersonic and train to the maximum capabilities of the jet.”
Capt. Kevin Fanter, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the active component’s 378th Fighter Squadron in Madison, said this exercise allowed him to get one step closer to becoming a four-ship flight lead.
“As an active duty pilot not transitioning to the F-35, I’ll be leaving the 115th by the time this fall rolls around,” Fanter said. “Flying out of Key West has allowed me to train against a larger aggressor force helping me become a more tactically proficient flight lead and further prepare me for whatever challenges I encounter at my next duty station.”
While Key West provided advanced training for the fighter pilots, it also benefited all those involved as the unit showcased its ability to effectively operate in a remote environment enhancing the Air Force’s strategic goal of agile combat employment.
“When we move an entire force, everyone — from the most junior Airmen to the most senior leaders — receive great ACE training,” Griswold said. “It’s through training missions like these that we’re able to demonstrate to the Air Force and the people of Wisconsin what a class-act unit the 115th Fighter Wing is.”