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The Gorillas take on Northern Lightning

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Abigail Duell
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

The Gorillas with the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, participated in Exercise Northern Lightning from Aug. 7-16.


Northern Lightning is a joint exercise hosted annually in Volk Field, Wisconsin. 


”We get to integrate some of our newest aircraft technologies and tactics, and then we get to fight some very high-end threats to prepare for future conflicts and better our training,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Green, 58th FS commander. 


This exercise allows the Nomads to avoid the high weather attrition rate in Florida during the month of August and maximize their training capabilities. 


“Just to put things in perspective, I flew three times in July and I’m going on my 12th flight today, and we’re only halfway through the month,” Lt. Col. Green said. “We are doing a significant amount of training out here that we wouldn't necessarily be doing at our home station.”


Not only does Volk Field offer optimal weather conditions, but it also offers open airspace and a new environment for the pilots to train in. 


“The airspace is about 140-150 miles long and about 70 miles wide, so it's just a huge corridor to get all these jets in training together,” said Green. “The air space is different so it presents some challenges to our pilots that they don't necessarily see on a day-to-day basis. To go off station here at Volk Field you have to understand what the traffic and tower controllers are telling you. Getting them this experience is critical and really benefits the team.”


Northern Lightning serves as an opportunity for joint, high-end training where the U.S. Air Force and National Guard’s F-35A fly together with the F-35Bs and the F-16/C fleets from the Marine Corps. 


“We’ve got multiple different fighter jets here, which gives us the opportunity to work together as a team and understand the best way to communicate,” said Green. “The integration opportunities benefit both our instructor and student pilots.”


While this exercise provides integration opportunities among the branches, it also provides integration opportunities within the 58th FS. 


“I'm here with 128 Airmen from the 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, 33rd Maintenance Squadron, and 33rd Maintenance Group Staff, ensuring all 14 of our F-35s are safe and reliable for every pilot participating in Exercise Northern Lightning,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Cole Johnston, 58th AMU officer in charge. “When we're on the road, it's not about what shop you belong to, but the mission we support. We're one team, one fight.”


With different Airmen from different units coming together to support the mission, the amount of sorties have increased significantly. 


“As of right now we’ve done about 158 sorties,” said Green. “We have been absolutely crushing it on behalf of the pilots and the maintenance team here, they've been working really well and I'm super proud to see the team coming together like this.”


While every member of the 58th FS played an important role in this exercise, the 33rd FW was not alone in making this training happen. 


“The whole Northern Lightning team has been super supportive, not only for running the exercise, but they've just been very accommodating to Eglin Air Force Base and the 33rd FW as a whole,” Green said. “So a huge shoutout and special thanks to everyone here. I can’t value enough what they are accomplishing.”