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Valiant Shield exercise brings services together

  • Published
  • By Scott D. Hallford
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Kadena-based units departed Okinawa Aug. 5 on their way to Guam to join fellow Airmen and sister services in the joint Exercise Valiant Shield which runs through Aug. 14.

The 44th Fighter Squadron, with elements of the 67th FS, and the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron and 909th Air Refueling Squadron are participating along with approximately 22,000 military members, 285 aircraft and 50 ships, including aircraft carriers, USS Kitty Hawk, Stennis and Nimitz.

"Some of the units are from the continental United States, but most are Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps units from the Pacific," said Maj. John Stratton, 18th Operations Support Squadron chief of weapons and tactics.

"It's an opportunity for us to combine with other services operating as such a large force in a joint training environment and show what the F-15 can bring to the fight to complement each other in getting the job done."

Designed to enhance training in maritime interdiction and command and control, Valiant Shield is one of the largest annual exercises held in the Pacific and the 44th FS will have a larger role this year, according to Major Stratton, taking twice as many F-15s as last year, 24.

"We will build on lessons learned from last year and improve our proficiency," said Major Stratton. "Sometimes it is difficult communicating with other services. This helps us ensure our systems are interoperable."

This year's exercise brings another new facet for members of the 44th FS.
"We'll get another great training opportunity with live-fire training, shooting the AIM-7," he said, about the radar-guided, air-to-air missile with a high-explosive warhead. "We did not get to do that last year."

The 44th FS will also participate in offensive and defensive counter-air training missions and conduct mission planning with the other services the day before flying actually starts. For the exercise as a whole, a lot of planning goes into making it go as smoothly as possible.

"Joint Task Force 519 (a mobile, jointly operated command unit which responds to major conflicts in the region), at Hickam [Air Force Base], actually began right after last year's exercise," Major Stratton said. "Project officers with the 18th Wing began planning for us six months ago," he said.

Senior Airman Anthony Roberts, 44th FS aircrew flight equipment specialist, like everyone else, has been preparing and planning for a while also.

"There has been a lot of packing in our shop for about a month now," he said. "Once we get there, we'll be covering the flying schedule and working just like here, it will just be with a lot of other squadrons."

Along with F-15s, Kadena sent 422 Airmen from the participating squadrons, two E-3 Sentry and four KC-135 Stratotankers for the weeklong exercise.