AATC participates in multi-service, multi-aircraft exercise Southern Lightning Strike

Airmen from Morris Air National Guard Base’s Air National Guard/Air Force Reserve Test Center in Tucson, Ariz., recently traveled to New Orleans to participate in Operation Southern Lightning Strike.

The multi-service exercise tested units’ abilities to deploy with minimal personnel and equipment to austere locations while completing their mission.

Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, La, Airmen of the 162nd Wing, Arizona Air National Guard conduct their daily F.O.D. (foreign object damage) walk during Operation Southern Lightning Strike 2021. They look for and collect any loose items on the flight line that could damage the engines of the F-16 fighter aircraft that they maintain. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. H. Edward Stramler)

The exercise gathered Army and Air National Guard members from Arizona, Mississippi, Minnesota, Louisiana and Alabama, including members from Tucson’s AATC, to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.

“Exercise Southern Lightning Strike is practicing the ACE concept—agile combat employment. Basically, we need to go to war a different way, a different format,” said Lt. Col. Niul Manske, AATC Test and Operations Group director. “We want to keep our lethality, but we need to be much more agile, much more mobile than how we do it now. AATC realizes it’s a problem set to be solved, and we came here to get after it.”

The exercise serves as an Air National Guard early-building block to help build new best practices and identify shortfalls that can be integrated into current and future deployments.

AATC falls under both the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Commands, but 75 percent of the personnel and aircraft in the exercise were provided by the ANG.

“A lot of times (the Guard) is overlooked by the active-duty Air Force but we are involved in a lot more missions than most people realize. We are all over the world with different types of missions,” said Tech. Sgt. Jose Chambers, 183rd Airlift Squadron. “Training keeps our military strong. Exercises like this give us a stronger force. We build good relationships, so down the road, we’re a lot better trained on what’s actually going on.”

Lt. Col. David Auston, AATC Southern Lightning Strike project officer and F-16 Fighting Falcon test pilot, echoed the value of the deployment.

Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, La. While preparing to launch F-16 fighter aircraft during Operation Southern Lighting Strike, Tech. Sgt. Troy Beeman of the 162nd Wing, Arizona Air National Guard displays the debris that he picked during the daily F.O.D. (foreign object damage) walk. during Operation Southern Lightning Strike 2021. Airmen look for and collect any loose items on the flight line that could damage the engines of the F-16 fighter aircraft that they maintain. (U.S. Air National Guard
Photo by Tech. Sgt. H. Edward Stramler)
Staff Sgt. Austin Wall of the 162nd Wing, Arizona Air National Guard, completes preflight checks of an F-16 fighter aircraft while communicating with the pilot at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, La. The mission is part of operation Southern Lightning Strike, an Air National Guard led exercise where units deploy from their home bases to forward operating bases with minimum personnel and equipment to accomplish the mission in austere conditions. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. H. Edward Stramler)
Staff Sgt. Austin Wall of the 162nd Wing, Arizona Air National Guard, launches an F-16 fighter aircraft at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, La. The mission is part of operation Southern Lightning Strike, an Air National Guard led exercise where units deploy from their home bases to forward operating bases with minimum personnel and equipment to accomplish the mission in austere conditions. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. H. Edward Stramler)
Tech. Sgt. Chad Wright of the 162nd Wing, Arizona Air National Guard, performs maintenance on an F-16 fighter aircraft while deployed to Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, La. for operation Southern Lightning Strike 2021, November 2. Southern Lightning Strike is an Air National Guard led exercise where units deploy from their home bases to forward operating bases with minimum personnel and equipment to accomplish the mission in austere conditions. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. H. Edward Stramler)
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