By Master Sgt. Matt McCoy, 184th Public Affairs
Armed forces from around the world gathered once again in Salina for Jaded Thunder in February. The 134th Air Control Squadron, 184th Intelligence Wing, deployed personnel and equipment to Salina Regional Airport to support air operations.
Jaded Thunder is an interoperability and integration exercise that brings together special operations forces and conventional forces from all services, active duty, Guard and reserve, to train in a setting similar to a combat environment.
Salina is an ideal location for this exercise with Smoky Hill Weapons Range located nearby, which provides 34,000 acres for aerial, ground and urban combat training.
The 134th ACS is stationed at McConnell Air Force Base located nearly 100 miles south of Salina. The squadron divided into two entities during the exercise, a radar communications package at McConnell Air Force Base, and a deployed air battle execution package at Salina Regional Airport.
“Our main part is to link back to McConnell where we’re considered the deployed radar,” said Staff Sgt. Brock Vizner, data maintenance specialist, 134th ACS. “We push information and links that connect the aircraft to [other] equipment which then sends it out to a satellite and back down to the distant end.”
The information at the distant end allowed operators, who communicate directly with aircrew, to direct traffic between various airplanes and helicopters.
Jaded Thunder closely resembled combat experience for the 134th ACS. The squadron provided the same services for the exercise as they did while deployed overseas just one year ago.
“We had eight different locations, and throughout the entire area of responsibility, we got planes where they needed to go,” said Vizner. “If they don’t have radar in certain places, or don’t have our radio communications, then the airplanes are flying blind and the operators can’t help them.”
The same rang true for Jaded Thunder.
The exercise gave learning opportunities in ways other than combat training. Drill-Status Guardsmen, the part-time force that makes up the bulk of the Air National Guard, used the exercise to gain experience in leadership, job knowledge and project management.
“It’s definitely helping me with my communications skills,” said Staff Sgt. Chance Presson, radio frequency transmission specialist, 134th ACS.
Presson, now in his seventh year as an Air Guardsman, works full time as a service writer for a tire and lube shop in Wichita. He explained that Jaded Thunder helped him see how doing his military job affects the overall mission; something that could be easy to lose sight of as a part-time Guardsman.
“Seeing the bigger picture and setting up like this definitely helped me in knowing that, what I do here will help warfighters accomplish the mission down the road,” said Presson.