Operation Safe Skies 2011

  • Published
  • By Maj. Hesketh G. Miller and Master Sgt. Chad Bettis
  • 183d Air Operations Squadron
If you know anything about Europe, you know that Europeans love their soccer. So when it was announced that Ukraine and Poland would be hosting games for Eurocup 2012, the continental Super Bowl of soccer, it was no surprise that both countries went into preparation for the event by upgrading stadiums, improving transportation networks and training their armed forces to respond to the unexpected.

As part of those national preparations for the games the 183rd Air Operations Squadron answered the call to support our state partner, Poland, in Safe Skies: the first cross-border air sovereignty exercise between Poland and Ukraine. Safe Skies was designed for each country to employ air policing procedures using fighter aircraft as well as command and control infrastructure to protect the civilian population from a variety of threats.

Nine members of the 183rd, including the Wing Commander, Col. Michael Meyer, and 183rd Air Operations Group Commander, Col. Rick Yoder, deployed to Warsaw to support the command and control mission at the Polish Air Force's Air Operation Center.

The Operation began with the Polish Air Force (PLAF) briefing the 183rd members on their mission as an Air Operations Center (AOC) and the scenario for Operation Safe Skies. The next few days 183rd personnel interacted with PLAF personnel as they conducted operations on the AOC floor and in their Ground-Controlled Intercept (GCI) site. Illinois Air National Guard Airmen gained powerful insight of Polish Air Force command and control structure. At the end of the operation, 183rd personnel briefed the PLAF on the structure and responsibilities of US Air Force Air Operations Centers as well as the systems and processes used to conduct operations within an AOC.

Senior Master Sgt. James R. Price of the 183rd Air Operations Squadron said, "Our State Partnership with the Polish Air Force began when we had an F-16 flying mission and partnered with the Polish Air Force. We now have transitioned to a new mission as an Air Operations Group, and it was critical to the State Partnership Program to re-establish our relationship with the Polish Air Force's command and control operations center."

The PLAF's AOC is similar in many ways to our AOC. They display a common operational picture, just as we do on our floor, the systems and concepts are closely related as well. The day before 183rd personnel were to depart we took the day to brief the PLAF personnel on our systems and processes.