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164th AW brings interoperability during Exercise Saber Guardian 21

crew chief secure load before flight

TSgt Caleb Jones, loadmaster 164th AW, secures equipment aboard a C-17 for exercise Saber Guardian 21. The 164th AW transported two High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) from the 41st Field Artillery Brigade for the exercise. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Tarantino)

164th participates in Saber Guardian 21

Two High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) from the 41st Field Artillery Brigade sit aboard the C-17 “Night Train to Memphis” at Ramstein AB, Germany June 1, 2021. The Tennessee Air National Guard transported the rocket system to Novo Selo Training area in Bulgaria as part of the DEFENDER-Europe 21 exercise. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Tarantino)

164th participates in Saber Guardian 21

Two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) from the 41st Field Artillery Brigade stand by on a runway before being loaded onto the C-17 “Night Train to Memphis” at Ramstein AB, Germany June 1, 2021. The Tennessee Air National Guard transported the rocket system to Novo Selo Training area in Bulgaria as part of the DEFENDER-Europe 21 exercise. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Tarantino)

BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria --

Eleven Airmen assigned to the 164th Airlift Wing deployed in support of the exercise Saber Guardian 21, May 28 to June 2, 2021.  

Saber Guardian 21 is a part of DEFENDER-Europe 21, which is an annual large-scale U.S. Army-led, multinational, joint exercise to build readiness and interoperability between U.S., NATO, and partner militaries.

“This exercise allowed us to practice and integrate rapid deployment of U.S. assets in support of NATO allies and continue to exercise our strategic partnership,” said U.S. Air Force Major James Taylor, 164th AW aircraft commander. “Bulgaria is a part of Tennessee’s strategic State Partnership Program, and we support them however we can with our capabilities.”  

The SPP connects Tennessee National Guard with foreign military equivalents in a cooperative, sharing of resources relationship that benefits both parties.

 The 164th AW’s mission during this exercise was to transport two of the Army’s M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems from Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Artillery Brigade to Bulgaria for a demonstration of fire power for Bulgaria’s military officials to see their capabilities.

 “This mission was an excellent opportunity to use various aircraft equipment, train Airmen and to integrate with Army,” said Master Sgt. Eric Gast, C-17 advanced instructor graduate. “As a loadmaster we receive a lot of training and move equipment globally, but this was a great chance to put the training I’ve received into practice and to work with another branch of service.”

Similar operations have taken and will take place in the area all around Europe with U.S. and NATO allies as they improve their partnership for a strengthened Europe.

 Master Sgt. Lonnie Coleman, 155th Airlift Squadron Aerial port craftsman, discussed some of the logistics the team had to account for during the exercise.

 “There are a lot of things to account for when moving fire power such as the HIMARS, which fire rockets,” said Master Sgt. Lonnie Coleman, 155th Airlift Squadron Aerial Port craftsman. “We must ensure we have enough fuel and ensure weight is precise for the equipment being loaded onto the aircraft.  We also have to account for hazardous cargo as well since there are munitions being carried with the equipment, and inspect a vehicle’s joints before it is loaded.

“The exercise showed we are able to transport any asset anywhere and work together effectively.”

Operating in a joint environment with a common operating picture provided participating Airmen with experience and skills to integrate for future missions.

 This year, more than 30,000 multinational forces from 26 nations will conduct simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in 14 countries from the Baltics and Black Sea region as a part of DEFENDER-Europe 21.