By Tech. Sgt. Terri Paden, 15th Wing Public Affairs
The flightline here was abuzz with activity March 6 as the first sorties of Sentry Aloha were launched, signaling the official start of the aerial combat exercise.
Sentry Aloha has been an ongoing series of exercises over the past three decades, but this is by far the largest ever. It will last three weeks and include more than 350 Airmen, five visiting units and multiple airframes.
With Airmen from the Air National Guard, Air Reserves and active-duty all working together toward the common goal of making this Sentry Aloha the biggest and most successful to date, the training was also an exercise in total force integration.
"Historically, the purpose of Sentry Aloha was to support indigenous fighters on the island, but it's grown to be much bigger than that now," said Maj. Ryan Itoman, Sentry Aloha officer in charge. "What you're seeing here now is different because we have joined up with several outside units to create a large force exercise, historically it's just been one other unit."
Among the nearly 50 participating airframes are F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-15 Eagles, F-22 Raptors, C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemasters III, KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-10 Extenders. Additionally, the 15th and 154th Maintenance Groups, 169th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron, 613th Air and Space Operations Center and the 109th Air Operations Group are supporting the exercise as well.
Itoman said the newly formatted exercise will allow all participating units to truly train like they fight with the focus of the exercise being on offensive and defensive counter-air measures and fighter integration.
"This is a win, win, win situation," said Itoman. "It's a win for the indigenous Raptors, and it will provide everyone very realistic threat training. All these aircraft are integrated in combat, so it's great to train that way. The concept was to build a Sentry Aloha that would provide optimal training for several different units, and not just the home unit."
"Fighting alongside the F-22 Raptor as well as against the Raptor in the various training scenarios will be really excellent training for the visiting fighter squadrons," said Itoman.
In addition to the opportunity to train with such a large assortment of dissimilar aircraft, Sentry Aloha also provides the visiting units another unique opportunity, optimal weather conditions for training every day.
"Hawaii offers something for training that few other places do," said Lt. Col. Charles Anthony, Hawaii Air National Guard public affairs director. "It has the largest unrestricted air space in the U.S. and great weather even in the winter. Units can do so much more training this time of year in Hawaii than they could ever do virtually anywhere else."