AvDet 16-4 wraps up
By Capt Amy Rittberger, 114th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 30, 2016
Lask Air Base, Poland -- After four weeks and some significant challenges, Aviation Detachment 16-4 came to a close here, Sept. 23.
The South Dakota Air National Guard deployed more than 100 personnel to Lask Air Base, Poland in support of AvDet 16-4, a bilateral training exercise between the U.S. and Polish forces.
The plan was to have eight F-16 Fighting Falcons on the deployment, but only four were able to make it overseas a week later than expected. Despite the challenges, 80 sorties were successfully flown.
"We certainly had to roll with the punches with the aircraft and time changing on us, but I think the fact that we were able to integrate with the Polish MiG 29s and have all of our pilots here fight them, was invaluable training." said Col. Greg Lair, 114th Fighter Wing vice commander.
"It's a testament to maintenance [Airmen] being able to keep the airplanes flying every single day, twice a day," he added.
Col. Joel De Groot, 114th Maintenance Group commander, attributed the hard work and dedication of every maintenance technician to the success of the mission.
"That's their lives; they own that mission," said De Groot.
Lair also explained that working alongside different countries pushes Airmen out of their comfort zones.
"It's very easy to get comfortable back home flying in our airspace," said Lair. "You don't always have to think too much about it, so anytime you're able to get out of that comfort zone is good."
Joint terminal attack controllers are service members on the ground, providing direction to combat aircraft where close air support is needed. In a deployed environment, pilots won't always be able to communicate with their own JTACs, so getting out of their comfort zone and learning to work with foreign JTACs is important.
"Working with the Polish JTACS, yes the terminology is right out of the manual that we both use, but their inflection is different, their cadence is different," explained Lair.
Even with numerous obstacles to overcome, the 114 FW shined with another successful deployment and valuable training.
"We couldn't have asked for a better deployment," said De Groot. "The weather and airplanes both cooperated very well, so it was a stellar deployment as far as maintenance goes."
"One of the reasons I thought it was so important we do this is we've been doing wartime [and] contingency operations for some time now and it was just a good opportunity to realize there's more out there," said Lair. I think it's good and invigorating and helps keep our people excited about their jobs."