By Master Sgt. Matt McCoy
184th Intelligence Wing Public Affairs
The 134th Air Control Squadron, 184th Intelligence Wing, Wichita, deployed personnel and equipment to Salina Regional Airport in February to support air operations for the annual Jaded Thunder exercise.
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. The exercise took place at the Smoky Hill Weapons Range near Salina, which provides 34,000 acres for aerial, ground and urban combat training.
The 134th ACS divided into two entities during the exercise — a radar communications package at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, 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 exercise also provided other learning opportunities. 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, said 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.