Ten F-16 Fighter Falcons and 150 guardsmen from the South Dakota Air National Guard arrived at D-M Jan. 11 to conduct two weeks of mandatory readiness training.
The South Dakota ANG utilized Operation Snowbird, a program that allows northern tier ANG flying units to fly down to D-M and conduct training that would be hard or impossible in the harsh weather conditions.
The unit, out of Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls, S.D., shares a joint-use field with the civilian airport which restricts some of their training that they can get at D-M.
“We don’t have live weapon capability out at Joe Foss Field,” said Col. Russ Walz, 114th Fighter Wing commander. “When we get to a location, like Davis-Monthan and we have that ability, then we certainly exercise it.”
As part of their deployment here, pilots received the opportunity to do more night flying than normal.
“We will typically do one (night flight) a month,” Walz said. “When we get deployed, we like to take advantage of that, especially with night weapons and ranges.”
This opportunity also gave many of the traditional guardsmen the chance to work continuously. As a member of the ANG, some members work full-time while traditional guardsmen only work one weekend a month.
The commander expressed his gratitude for being able to be a part of Operation Snowbird while emphasizing it importance.
Walz said that most of the 150 guardsmen who visited are not full-time guardsmen. They have primary civilian jobs as well that range from bankers to doctors and lawyers. These opportunities gives those Airmen a chance to step away from their civilian jobs and have a continuous, two-week period where they can focus on enhancing their military skills and career in the Air Force.
One of the guardsmen’s favorite and more beneficial parts of the trip to Arizona was a break from the chilly weather of South Dakota.
“Maintenance is far easier with this weather,” said Tech. Sgt. Caleb DeGrout, 114th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician.
Aside from South Dakota ANG, the New Jersey ANG is also scheduled to participate in Operation Snowbird beginning in February.