by Senior Master Sgt. Shelly Davison
142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
10/24/2016 – YELLOWKNIFE, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES — Touching down in a C-5 Galaxy loaded with people and cargo, members of the 142nd Fighter Wing arrived in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, to snow, bitter temperatures and a warm welcome, to participate in Exercise Vigilant Shield 2017, October 17-21.
The Vigilant Shield 2017 Field Training Exercise is an annual exercise sponsored by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and led by Alaskan NORAD Region, in conjunction with Canadian NORAD Region and Continental NORAD Region, who undertake field training exercises aimed at improving operational capability in a bi-national environment.
Bringing approximately 65 members, four F-15 Eagles and 119,450 pounds of equipment to the Northwest Territories, the 142nd Fighter Wing was greeted by a host of support from the Canadian Mission Support Element as well as multiple U.S. military forces at Yellowknife, making it truly a joint exercise.
This year’s exercise built on previous years’ training successes when deploying air assets and personnel to the far north to exercise sovereignty operations in North America’s northern aerospace and in the high Arctic. Vigilant Shield provides crucial training opportunities for numerous military personnel with a variety of aircraft and assets from Canada and the United States to improve interoperability and to demonstrate NORAD’s ability to defend North America.
The exercise provided the opportunity not only to deploy troops, jets and equipment to a forward location, but also to operate in a climate much different than the 142nd Fighter Wing’s home of Portland, Oregon.
F-15 Eagle pilot Capt. James Hastings, 123rd Fighter Squadron, said the weather in the Northwest Territories provided a chance to work through “new aspects of mission planning and execution that doesn’t happen at home.”
Chief Master Sgt. Dan Conner, 142nd Maintenance Group and Non-commissioned Officer in Charge of the 142nd Vigilant Shied deployment, said participating in Vigilant Shield “helps us exercise the machine, moving all of our equipment and people into another location and ensuring that we are capable of operating.”
The men and women of the 142nd Fighter Wing wrapped up their portion of Vigilant Shield with the successful launch of their homeward bound F-15 Eagles. For Master Sgt. Joshua Combs, 142nd Maintenance Group, it was his first deployment as a 1st Sgt. where he was able to truly see the valuable and concrete training this exercise provided.
“The highlight of the trip was seeing the jets take off, being able to move all of the equipment and all of the personnel, get set up, get the aircraft here and seeing our maintainers happy, and looking forward to doing what they were trained to do,” said Combs. “I have to say that I am spoiled on this trip, it has been absolutely perfect.”