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103rd AOG deploys in support of exercise Blue Flag

Airman 1st Class Mitchell Smith, combat reports technician, 103rd Air Operations Group, receives a certificate of appreciation from Major General William L. Holland, Deputy Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. for his contributions to Exercise Blue Flag.  (U.S. Air Force File Photo)

Airman 1st Class Mitchell Smith, combat reports technician, 103rd Air Operations Group, receives a certificate of appreciation from Major General William L. Holland, Deputy Commander, U.S. Air Forces Central, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. for his contributions to Exercise Blue Flag. (U.S. Air Force File Photo)

BRADLEY ANG BASE--East Granby, Conn. -- The 103rdAir Operations Group completed a successful deployment to Shaw AFB, South Carolina, providing a 39 member team in support of Exercise Blue Flag.
     Blue Flag is an Air Combat Command sponsored exercise designed to train the Numbered Air Force Commanders and their Air Operations Centers' staffs by providing operational level Air Component battle staff experience in a realistic training environment.
     In less than a year, the 103rd Air Operations Group has transformed from a white board concept to a unit boasting four unique squadrons ready to support training and operational deployments around the globe.
     "We have already deployed to the Combined Air Operations Center over in Southwest Asia and this exercise marks our second Air Communications Squadron deployment and our first group level deployment," said Maj. John Saunders, strategy division, 103rd Air Operations Group. "The progress we've made this year shows the tremendous dedication and determination this unit has to completing the mission."
     Airmen from the 103rd AOG integrated with over 260 active-duty and reserve personnel to support this exercise.
     "This was a great opportunity to see our members working together with active-duty and reserve components to complete the AOC mission," said Master Sgt. Heather Kirkham, human resources specialist, 103rd Air Operations Group.
     "103rd AOG personnel made an immediate impact using their experience, skills and great attitudes," said Maj. Glenn Sherman, defensive operations, 103rd Air Operations Group. "The guard brings experience and continuity to this mission, something commanders have been yearning for."
     The unit tapped into a wealth of experience, pairing members with different AFSCs and backgrounds, to satisfy 36 unique operational requirements while at Blue Flag.
     "The exercise provided a realistic training environment enabling many participants to interact with the actual systems and their counterparts downrange," said 2nd Lt. Chad Montague, intelligence officer, 103rd Air Operations Group.
     Officers and enlisted worked shoulder to shoulder, strategizing, planning, executing and assessing a simulated air war to meet U.S. objectives.
     "I'm glad that my first opportunity to get my hands dirty in a working AOC was at the 609th. The folks down there really know their stuff," said Master Sgt. Eric Dunn, information technology specialist, 103rd Air Operations Group. "There is so much to know and, despite being busy with the exercise, they made sure they took the time to show the new guy the ropes. It was a great experience."
     "This exercise was a great opportunity for our folks and for ACC. It's a sign of terrific things to come," said Lt. Col. Peter DePatie, commander, 103rd Air Operations Group. "As the 103rd AOG develops, so too will the Connecticut Air National Guard's bright future in the operational level of war. More opportunities are just around the corner."