Three Pa. ANG wings combine to ship Airmen to Hawaii for exercise

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Wilfredo Acosta

All three wings in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard combined resources to transport members of the 111th Attack Wing from Biddle Air National Guard Base in Horsham, Pennsylvania, to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, for a two-week training exercise known as Koa Lani that began on June 9, 2023.

The 171st Air Refueling Wing and the 193rd Special Operations Wing joined forces to airlift 39 members of the 111th ATKW with the 171st providing a KC-135 Stratotanker and an aircrew, and the 193rd Special Operations Wing providing the airfield and personnel required to load the aircraft, which took off for Hawaii from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Because the goal of the training was for the 111th FSS to simulate the logistics and operation tempo involved with deploying to an airbase overseas in support of an active-duty contingency operation, they decided to name the exercise once they arrived at JBPHH.

“We chose the name Koa Lani for the exercise,” said Capt. Soosoo Taulelei, 111th FSS Director of Personnel. “Koa Lani can translate to sky warrior, or heavenly warrior. We thought it was a good fit because in addition to Airmen from the 111th FSS, we traveled with a public affairs team and two members from the chaplain’s office.”

The journey totaled approximately 16 hours, which included a bus ride to the airfield courtesy of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Nine of those hours were spent in flight and the remainder was spent loading and unloading gear and shuttling troops from the airfield to lodging.

2nd Lt. Akini Cyrus, 111th Food Services Flight Commander, said the airman were prepared for the travel. Many slept during the flight while others broke out board games and cards, or watched movies to pass the time.

However, preparing for a six-hour time difference and 3:00 a.m. wake ups were a different story. Fortunately, the troops of the 111th FSS were up for the task.

“Our team has to wake up at 0300 to start preparations for breakfast and lunch,” said Cyrus. “I am proud to say that they weren’t just on time, but early. Part of that was having the weekend to adjust. Many of the troops went on sunrise hikes and exercised while acclimating to a new location.”

In addition to travel, acclimatizing to a tropical environment and a six-hour time difference, the Airmen also transitioned into their respective roles, which ranged from providing mission support services, such as feeding troops at the dining facility and monitoring physical fitness assessments.

“As Airmen in the Air National Guard, we need to remain ready to answer the call and serve alongside our active-duty counterparts,” said Cyrus. “Coming to Hawaii gave us an opportunity to deal with the logistics of a type of deployment in which our troops were geared up and moving from one location to a completely unfamiliar location and having our troops be prepared to engage and do what they need to do within their career fields to support the mission.”