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News | March 6, 2023

Puerto Rico Guard Serves as Southcom Ace Strategic Air Bridge

By Airman 1st Class Gisselle Toro Caraballo, 156th Wing

MUÑIZ AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Puerto Rico - The 156th Wing operated as an expeditionary air base during Operation Forward Tiger 2023 to support U.S. Southern Command’s large-scale multinational exercise in February.

The Dominican Republic air force, Jamaica defense force, Canadian armed force and U.S. Air Force participated in the exercise. 

Operation Forward Tiger maximized the critical value of air mobility among nation partners to accomplish Agile Combat Employment, enhancing humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities throughout the Caribbean.

ACE is a proactive and reactive operational maneuver focused on the rapid disbursement of military assets and resources to forward operating locations.

“The 156th Wing support has been critical for providing the logistical and operational support the Flying Tigers needed to be capable of meeting AFSOUTH and partner nation objectives in the region,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Russell Cook, the 23rd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “As a lead wing, we were able to conduct the Agile Combat Employment and counter maritime training that is hard to get anywhere else.”

The 23rd AEW is an active-duty U.S. Air Force component that specializes in rapidly generating combat airpower from small, geographically separated base clusters across an area of ​​operations. By establishing the main operating base at the 156th Wing for the exercise, the 23rd AEW and nation partners could execute rapid air mobility tactics in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the U.S. Virgin Islands due to Puerto Rico’s strategic location in the Caribbean island chain.

“Further solidifying the relevance of our strategic location,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Eduardo Gonzalez, the 156th Wing installation deployment officer. “It doesn’t matter from what part of the U.S. you are, we are still the closest to the South, and there is no way that any other unit will get to the South faster than departing from our airfield.”

In addition to location, the Puerto Rico Air National Guard has the personnel and resources to execute independent ACE missions and can provide logistical support for large-scale exercises. From planning, coordination, airfield operations, command and control, hangar space, transportation, fuel and security, the PRANG successfully managed the logistical support to ensure the training objectives of Operation Forward Tiger 2023 were achieved.

“By supporting this mission, we prove why the PRANG is relevant and why our flight line needs to be open,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Carlos Perez, the Plans and Integration Office superintendent. “We have not only been supporting but also learning from each other, providing our experience in how to operate with limited resources, and that further enhances the execution of what ACE is all about.”

Through multinational total force exercises, the Air Force can train Airmen to perform a variety of tasks to effectively respond to changing situations quickly.

“This exercise was a great opportunity to showcase interoperability and capabilities of our multi-capable Airmen,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Evaristo M. Orengo, 156th Wing commander. “These Airmen are truly the backbone of our Air Force, and their ability to perform a variety of tasks in contested environments makes them invaluable in any situation.”
 

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