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175th Wing returns from NATO’s largest Air Force deployment exercise to date

Story by Staff Sgt. Laura Weaver

MIDDLE RIVER, Md. – More than 100 Airmen assigned to the 175th Wing, Maryland National Guard, returned home to Martin State Air National Guard Base this weekend after supporting the German-led exercise Air Defender 2023 (AD23), the largest Air Force deployment exercise since NATO was founded.

The multinational exercise, involving more than 10,000 military personnel, 250 aircraft and 25 countries, focused on operational and tactical-level field training from airfields across Germany June 12-23, and proved to be a powerful demonstration of ready and postured forces.

“Over the past few weeks, the 175th Wing executed A-10C operations in support of AD23,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Paul Kanning, 175th Operations Group commander. “Significant logistical efforts were required to deploy, sustain, and redeploy all of the people and equipment for such a large exercise, and the incredible partnership from everyone to make this exercise possible is amazing.”

The 175th Wing supported the exercise with six A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron, participating in combined air operations in an air interdiction, close air support missions, and suppression of enemy air defense roles. The unit flew 28 sorties in conjunction with seven partner nations, including Germany, Denmark, Poland, Turkey, Canada, Hungary and the United Kingdom.

The U.S. Air Force deployed around 100 aircraft from 42 states to support exercise AD23, with more than 2,600 members participating from the Air National Guard. Exercise AD23 provided a vital opportunity, not only for multiple U.S. services to work together, but also for integrated total force training between active duty, reserve, and guard components, as well as partner nations’ militaries to ensure interoperability.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Edgar Castellano, lead phase mechanic and multi-capable airman assigned to the 175th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, volunteered to support AD23 as a crew chief and says he is honored to have been able to participate in any capacity.

“Having multi-capable Airmen to support an exercise is valuable because it allows your unit to do more tasks with less personnel,” said Castellano. “Stepping up to be a crew chief for this exercise provides an opportunity for me to apply my training to real-world events, and helps me not to forget where my foundation came from. I was ecstatic to see how the training was conducted among all the various aircraft and to witness our readiness to respond together.”

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Kosubinsky, a crew chief assigned to the 175th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, described AD23 as both challenging and rewarding for his first exercise outside of the U.S.

“As a crew chief, we were assigned to a single jet through the whole trip, so we can stay familiar with it and make sure it is in the best condition possible so that our pilots can complete their mission safely,” said Kosubinsky. “Even though our work days were long and sometimes challenging, I can’t complain because of how cool this opportunity is. This was my first overseas exercise, and I’m very happy I was able to participate.”

Exercise AD23 also provided an opportunity to work with partner nations through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program (SPP), strengthening vital relationships around the world.

Before transitioning to Germany, the 175th Wing spent the first week supporting exercise AD23 from a forward operating location in Estonia, Maryland’s state partner since 1993. The partner nations participated in 56 training sorties, including close air support missions and live-munition drops. Maryland and Estonia are celebrating their 30-year anniversary of partnership this year.

The U.S Air Force and Air National Guard’s extensive participation in AD23 successfully promoted mutual trust and knowledge exchanges among service members across NATO partner nations, while demonstrating agility and flexibility in European theater and making a clear commitment to Europe’s security.

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