Pa. ANG represents dominant air power in multi-NATO force exercise

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond
  • 111th Attack Wing Public Affairs
Of the nearly 160 U.S. military members participating in exercise Anakonda Response 2016, a band of less than nine 111th Attack Wing members from Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania, represented the Air Force component April 27 - May 5 here.

Exercise Anakonda Response 2016, an evaluation hosted by the Hungarian Ministry of Defense, was intended to test and evaluate joint military effectiveness in a multinational humanitarian relief effort, while also building real-world bonds with NATO-allied militaries.

"It was an honor to be here and participate in this exercise and we must remember that our actions, responses and abilities reflected not only the 111th Attack Wing and the Air National Guard, but generally speaking, all of the U.S. Air Force capabilities to an international audience," said Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Steigerwald, 111th ATKW member and the air operations director for the exercise. "During this exercise, there was little room for error; and I believe our Airmen performed flawlessly with their counterparts."

The event included the Department of Defense's Defense Threat Reduction Agency; U.S. Army Peacekeeping & Stability Operations Institute; governmental and non-governmental agencies and military branches to include: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Army Reserve, Army National Guard, Air National Guard, the U.K.'s Royal Army and the Corps of Royal Marines.

Anakonda Response 2016 was planned and generated by the 7th Mission Support Command of the Army Reserve from Kaiserslautern, Germany. The scenario was based upon the military and governmental organization role in assisting the Hungarian military and internal assets during a large-scale natural disaster. Air Guardsmen held positions in both air and ground capacities.

"Our goal coming into this was to train the staff and have them gain an understanding of foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster response; and I think we went a long way to accomplishing that," said Army Reserve Lt. Col. Lance Oliver, 7th MSC chief of plans. "Another mission goal was building relationships. And I think that was the biggest take away from this, not only with our host nation, but with all the participants in the exercise."

The array of military constituents worked with previously-unfamiliar comrades toward achieving a common goal. By doing so, bonds were built.

"It was a phenomenal experience working with [the judge advocates] from the Army during Anakonda Response [2016]," said Air Force 1st Lt. Hilary Styer, a 111th ATKW judge advocate and exercise participant. "The two individuals I worked closely with were extremely knowledgeable in international law and provided me with great mentorship. I would jump at the chance to work with them again."

Upon the exercise's end, the tri-country leadership viewed the scenario as an overwhelming success.

"I think the exercise has reached its aim, because the aim was to see and to work out how we can work together efficiently, and this has never happened before between the [Hungarian and U.S.] forces," said the Hungarian officer in charge Col. Csaba Szarka. "And it was not only to incorporate the military forces, but also with the civilian counterparts as well. And our forces received the necessary training to be better prepared for the next scenario, hopefully [sic]. "

Hungary not only served as the host, but was also the nation upon which the scenarios were based.

In 2010, the retaining wall of a caustic waste reservoir in the country collapsed. Releasing more than 38 million cubic feet of highly-alkaline red sludge, the toxic material flooded several villages, killing 10 people and injured more than 120 with chemical burns.

Exercise planners used these factual events to fashion some notional incidences, while also incorporating fictional content to maintain training currency.

Created to be challenging, participants stated that they were tested by the experience. Many said that the scenarios, and real-world trials, served to assemble a more skillful total-force military.

"When I see what's going on during this exercise, it tells me that people are talking to each other," said Color Sgt. John Dixon of the 77th Brigade, Dennison Barracks, Royal Marine Corps, U.K. "When that happens, so can progress toward a mutually beneficial goal.

"The people come together and there is a common understanding to take this forward, strengths are built. This experience is going to prove mutually beneficial across the whole of the sphere."

With the success of this year's exercise, the planning for next year has already begun.

"I hope that we can continue to develop the relationships that we had to establish to do this," said Oliver. "And that's where we're at. We're looking forward to maintaining the relationships, so we get the participation again next year and continuing to work with our Hungarian allies--we have to maintain momentum."