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Nebraska Air National Guard provide key capability to Emerald Flag exercise

  • Published

LINCOLN, Neb. – The 155th Air Refueling Wing, Nebraska Air National Guard, participated in Emerald Flag, a multi-service exercise, Dec. 1-5, 2020, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

Emerald Flag is a multi-domain test exercise that incorporates technology and focuses on the efficiency for Joint warfare.

“Even though this was an active duty exercise, our little piece of that puzzle was to step in to extend the effectiveness and do so seamlessly as part of the total force,” said Maj. Tyler Sandberg, chief of current operations, 155th Operations Support Squadron.

The 155th ARW’s role in the mission was to use the KC-135 Stratotanker, a refueling tanker, to refuel the different types of aircraft participating in the exercise. The KC-135 is able to refuel aircraft while in the air, allowing pilots to fly longer without having to land and refuel.

Although the 155th ARW’s mission was small compared to other elements of the exercise, Sandberg said the 155th ARW’s participation in the Emerald Flag exercise was essential.

“They had participants in the air flying F-15’s, F-16’s, F-35’s, E-3 AWACS and B-52’s. All of those platforms need to be in that test period at the same time,” Sandberg said. “We provide that extended ability for them to be able to test longer and cover more points. Otherwise they’re landing to refuel.”

This exercise provided training opportunities to refuel a wide variety of aircraft over the five-day period. It also provided new experiences to those that haven’t yet been deployed.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for a new pilot or boom to operate in a complex scenario with lots of moving parts and planning,” Sandberg said. “It’s probably the closest experience we get to offering them when they deploy on operational missions.”

A pilot for the 173rd Air Refueling Squadron, Nebraska Air National Guard 1st Lt. Carl Berggren, said the experience made for good training, especially for newer Airmen.

“There was so much in motion and that’s how it is deployed as well,” Berggren said. “There were a lot of new receivers and different kinds of airplanes, so being able to see all that was helpful.”

Training exercises like these help remind Sandberg how the Nebraska Air National Guard contributes to the overall strategic flying mission.

“We’re able to show up and integrate as a total force player,” Sandberg said. “It doesn’t matter who’s driving the bus because they can drive up and get gas from us. All pieces would've been significantly impacted if we were not there.”