Idaho’s A-10s flying in the New Mexico skies

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico -- The skies over New Mexico got a little busier Nov. 5 as 13 Idaho Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft began a weeklong training exercise here.

The New Mexico Air National Guard's 150th Fighter Wing is hosting more than 150 airmen from the 124th Fighter Wing while providing numerous parking spaces and runway access for A-10 aircraft, as well as a maintenance hangar and ample office space.

Prior to arrival, the 150th Fighter Wing worked to support the incoming unit by performing ramp surveys, moving barriers, and arranged vehicles for the 124th Fighter Wing members. In addition, the 150th Fighter Wing Security Forces provided reinforcement for the Idaho guardsmen throughout the week.

Idaho airmen were greeted by 150th Fighter Wing commander Col. Joe Martinez II Nov. 4 and began preparation for their training mission.

"Our relationship with our host has been outstanding. They have given up their facilities and ramp and shared their local expertise to get us started out right," said Lt. Col. Shannon Smith, deployment commander of the 124th Fighter Wing and commander of the 190th Fighter Squadron.

Idaho Air Guardsmen will use this training to learn new job skills and gain valuable experience working away from the familiar surroundings of Boise's Gowen Field.

"One reason it is great for the Idaho Air National Guard to be on this deployment exercise is to allow our traditional Guardsmen the opportunity to succeed in roles they haven't previously done at home," said Col. Smith.

Maj. Matthew McGarry, a traditional A-10 pilot who lives and works in Memphis, Tenn., is proving himself as a great project officer in planning and coordinating this exercise, he added.

Another traditional member, Lt. Col. Scott Salois, normally the 124th Maintenance Operations flight commander, has the opportunity to serve as the deployed maintenance squadron commander.

Senior Master Sgt. Tony Zabel is a flight line supervisor, attending to crew chiefs on the flight line back in Boise. Here, he takes the role as the maintenance non-commissioned officer in charge, planning and supervising all of maintenance personnel and cargo as it arrives until it leaves New Mexico.

Most of the maintenance and support personnel left Boise Nov. 2 to catch the 13 aircraft, which made the 800-mile flight from Boise to Albuquerque a day later.

"Maintenance did a great job of getting us ready to succeed. They generated 15 aircraft to launch 13. They have done a great job of bedding us down here. Within the 124th Fighter Wing, all of the deployed personnel are helping to make sure everything goes well and runs smoothly," said Col. Smith.

Idaho Air Guardsmen will execute the A-10s mission of close air support and combat search-and-rescue training during the exercise. They are expected to arrive back in Boise Nov. 10.