EAST GRANBY, Conn. –
U.S. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard Airmen were among approximately 9,000 troops from 17 allied and partner nations to participate in Exercise Swift Response 22. The annual exercise focuses on enhancing airborne interoperability between allied and partner nations, as well as integrated, total force training with Reserve and Guard units.
Swift Response 22 underlines the U.S. Defense Department’s focus on building readiness to face near-peer adversaries in future conflicts. This year, the geographic scale of the exercise was expanded to include the Arctic High North, Baltic States, Balkans, and Caucasus regions.
Air Force Capt. Bryan Reed, a pilot assigned to the 700th Airlift Squadron, 94th Airlift Wing at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, and an aircraft commander for Swift Response 22, expressed the importance of integrating Air Guardsmen and Reservists with multinational forces during the exercise.
“We have to build these partnerships,” said Reed. “There’s nothing like being able to practice with those [allied and partner nations] during Swift Response. We enhance our readiness for our wartime capabilities, get training in locations that we haven’t trained in before and strengthen our relationship with our coalition partners.”
This year’s exercise, held from May 2 to 24, 2022, evaluated the readiness of the U.S. Army’s Global Response Force core ground component - the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division - alongside multinational high-readiness forces from Albania, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, United Kingdom, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
Such large-scale exercises are key to overcoming the challenges of operating in a joint environment, said Senior Master Sgt. Eric Hady, an evaluator loadmaster from the 118th AS, 103rd AW, Connecticut Air National Guard.
“Working with different types of agencies is always a challenge,” said Hady. “Whether it’s multinational, speaking different languages, or even if it’s different branches of service, because sometimes our lingo is different. So working together with our allied partners, we learn a lot from each other about how we operate.”
On May 11th, as part of Swift Response 22, three C-130H crews from the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard flew with one C-130J crew from the Italian Air Force to conduct a joint forcible entry exercise (JFE) in North Macedonia. The JFE simulated forcible entry and control of airfields in a contested environment.
The formation of two Connecticut ANG C-130Hs from Bradley ANG Base, Connecticut, one C-130H from Dobbins ARB, Georgia, and one C-130J from Pisa International Airport, Italy, airdropped approximately 368 Italian and Spanish paratroopers into North Macedonia during the JFE.
Aircrews later flew a second airdrop mission to deliver supplies and equipment to the paratroopers who were on the ground. The JFE also covered parts of Lithuania, Latvia, The Republic of Georgia and Norway.
Lt. Col. John Saunders, a Combat Systems Officer assigned to the 118th AS, 103rd AW, Connecticut ANG, and mission commander for Swift Response 22, expressed the significance of the JFE in showcasing the joint force’s capability to rapidly and simultaneously deploy multinational airborne forces, anywhere in the world.
“One of the great things about Swift Response is the sheer magnitude of the exercise,” said Saunders. “One of the highlights from this year’s exercise is the near simultaneous airdrop in five different countries for the joint forcible entry exercise.”
Saunders also noted that, while language barriers and differences in weapons systems presented challenges during Swift Response 22, participants were able to overcome those challenges.
“Although it’s sometimes difficult to get our ideas across, it turns out that what we do share, if not a common language, is the common culture of wearing the uniform,” said Saunders. “[The language barrier] is not something that has been insurmountable and it’s something that we’ve been able to successfully work through.”
Lt. Col. Roberto Panico, Italian C-130J pilot and Air Liaison Officer at Folgore Airborne Brigade, agreed that Swift Response 22 enhanced the interoperability of U.S. and Italian forces because the exercise established cooridnation to better work together in the future.
“Not only did we make this possible, but everything worked great, thanks to the talent and professionalism of the [U.S. Air Force Reserve and Air NationalGuard] crews, which have been planning, shoulder-to-shoulder, with the Italians,” said Panico. “With the Italian parachutists, an Italian C-130 and C-130s from the U.S., we have worked together to make this a success.”