AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFNS) --
More than 90 Airmen and three C-130 Hercules aircraft from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing participated in Immediate Response 2019, a multinational exercise co-led by Croatian Armed Forces, Slovenian Armed Forces and U.S. Army Europe, at Aviano Air Base, May 9-22.
The purpose of the annual exercise is to build multinational readiness, enhance military-to-military relationships and improve interoperability between land forces to provide mutual assurance, deter regional aggression and support a balanced approach to security and stability in the Balkan region.
Maj. Trevor Sutherland, the 123rd AW’s air mission commander, said the exercise provided invaluable experience working with multiple partners.
“It validates all of our strategic plans,” said Sutherland, a pilot in the wing’s 165th Airlift Squadron. “You have our people interfacing with the Army and all these different agencies, and they were very impressed with the way our unit leaned forward.”
The exercise included approximately 6,000 participants from 15 nations including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In addition to improving relationships and interoperability with allies and partners, the exercise also provided a good training opportunity for newer Airmen, said Master Sgt. Hunter Hurd, a 123rd Maintenance Group flightline production controller and production superintendent for the mission.
“I think this was an excellent training experience; it really shows the younger folks why they went to school for as long as they did and why they worked those long hours,” Hurd said. “They can see the fruits of their labor in the sorties that the aircrews are flying.”
Airman Tanner Soward, a new 123rd Operations Group aviation resource management Airman, agreed.
“It was great being able to work with other units and countries,” Soward said. “I learned a lot about doing my job without using the systems that we have back home.”