FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
More than 40 maintainers, boom operators, pilots, and personnel from the 141st Air Refueling Wing took to the skies of central Finland to take part in Operation Sentry Lynx in May 2016, at Kuopio-Rissala Air Base, Finland.
Operation Sentry Lynx was a venture between the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), the National Guard Bureau, and the Finnish air force in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which is the demonstration of continued support and security from the United States to reassure NATO allies and partners of the United States’ dedication to peace and stability in Central and Eastern Europe, according to www.defence.gov.
Guardsmen from the 141st were there to provide fuel to five F-15C Eagles from the 173rd Fighter Wing from Klamath Falls, Ore., who were training alongside F/A-18 Hornets from the Finnish air force.
“We played a key role in the exercise by supporting Oregon’s fighters,” said Maj. Tyson Frost, project officer for the 141st Operations Group and detachment commander for Operation Sentry Lynx, “They were able to train for extended periods of time and could stay airborne longer because we were there to support them throughout the entire exercise.”
Not only was Operation Sentry Lynx a unique opportunity for all who took part in it, but participants were also able to accomplish various training requirements and experience procedures that they would not have had the opportunity to do stateside, said Frost. The exercise also included a coronet, which is the movement of multiple receiver formations over an ocean, while being escorted by a tanker to provide fuel to the F-15s.
“We had a few new boom operators and pilots receive phenomenal training,” said Frost. “We were able to transport fighters across oceans. We’re their navigation, their fueling source, basically their air bridge to get across the Atlantic or Pacific, and for us, that is invaluable because that isn’t something you get to do every day.”
The itinerary consisted of a stop in Klamath Falls, followed by Bangor, Maine, and finally on to Kuopio. Once in country, the KC-135 Stratotanker faced a number of maintenance issues that kept it grounded for the first part of the exercise. Maintenance on a jet that is more than 4,500 miles from home can prove to be challenging, especially when the necessary supplies aren’t readily available.
“We went in with a single tanker with no established supply chain,” said Staff Sgt. Peter Branch, avionics journeyman for the 141st Maintenance Squadron. “We were able to get the supply assets into the country quickly and once we had them in hand we were good to go.”
The Oregon Air National Guard’s aircraft are Fairchild’s most common receiver because of geographical location, but that does not mean the two wings travel together often.
“Travelling with the Oregon guard members and working so closely with them really strengthened our relationship,” said Frost, “Unit to unit, we were all able to get the job done and maximize training; it was a great partnership.”
During the exercise, leadership from Kuopio-Rissala Air Base and a number of distinguished visitors, including the U.S. Ambassador to Finland, Charles C. Adams, were able to participate in different flights on the KC-135.
Over the course of two weeks, the members of the 141st logged over 60 flight hours, completed 17 sorties, and offloaded 347,400 pounds of fuel to the 173rd fighters.
“I’m extremely proud of all the 141st personnel that participated in this exercise,” said Frost, “There were a lot of moving parts from start to finish and obstacles to overcome, but they represented our wing in an excellent fashion and really went above and beyond to ensure the mission was a complete success. The relationships we were able to build and the shared experiences were something that really made it a once in a lifetime opportunity.”