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Nomads return home from Savannah

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber Litteral
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

The Nomads returned to Eglin Air Force Base after an eight-day exercise at Savannah Air National Guard Base, Ga. The training event, hosted by the Georgia ANG from Sept. 14-22, was an air-to-air training exercise that encompassed 4th- and 5th-generation aircraft from several ANG and active duty Air Force units. 


“We worked with ANG units that run the facilities in Savannah, KC-135’s and F-16’s from the Alabama ANG, and F-15C’s and F-15E’s from Jacksonville and Seymour Johnson AFB,” said Maj. Robert Hicks, 58th Fighter Squadron scheduling assistant director of operations. “We also had T-38’s from Randolph AFB in Texas flying adversary air for us. This all came together to give us a fantastic quality of training with other aircraft we don’t normally fly with at Eglin.”


The exercise accomplished advanced, multi-platform, tactical integration with varying platforms of fighter aircraft. The event came at a key point in the F-35A Lightning II pilots upgrade training, allowing student pilots the opportunity to fly with alternate aircraft in a different airspace, advancing the TX-1 syllabus by two weeks.


“It gave our pilots experience fighting against dissimilar aircraft which is more realistic of enemy aircraft,” said Hicks. “At home station, we fly against other F-35’s, which isn’t as realistic as you might imagine. Additionally, since we usually provide our own red aircraft, it often takes six aircraft to get one student an effective training sortie.”


The exercise’s proper execution required a continued emphasis on COVID-19 measures already being practiced at Eglin AFB. The continuation of those same procedures was integral to a successful and safe exercise while away from home. 


“We kept all of our home station policies in place,” said Hicks. “We utilized masks and social-distancing to the maximum extent, and we kept our Airman from eating inside at restaurants. With the multiple outdoor seating options in downtown Savannah, we could still enjoy ourselves while mitigating risk to the mission.”


The exercise also relied on seamless teamwork from both operations and maintenance squadrons. With a total of 112 sorties flown over the eight-day period, pilots from the 33rd FW garnered a total of approximately 168 flight hours, keeping the flying training mission efficient and safe in a new environment.


“From an operations-maintenance team perspective, there is an incredible esprit-de-corps and confidence boost that comes from leaving your well-stocked supply shelves and your tried-and-true command-and-control channels and operating from a new location with minimal equipment and manning,” said Lt. Col. Dave Cochran, 58th Fighter Squadron commander.


In preparation for the event, 14 truckloads carrying 70 tons of equipment were transported between installations. An exercise of this size required several months of planning to be completed in only two months due to the constant shift in schedule.


“Due to the uncertainty surrounding local return-to-normal operations during COVID-19, we actually pulled off this trip within about 60 days thanks to a herculean effort by the lead planners from every unit and an unbelievable welcome from our hosts at Savannah,” said Cochran. 


The 33rd FW and the other participating units used the exercise to train and develop new tactics alongside alternate aircraft to best leverage the F-35 in a team setting, maintaining the force’s lethality and readiness while continuing to train and develop the world’s finest.