148th Fighter Wing back home after overseas mission

By KBJR News 1

June 20, 2014 Updated Jun 20, 2014 at 9:45 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The 148th Fighter Wing is back on home turf after five weeks of overseas training, in several different war game operations.

The Duluth-based Bulldogs, joined several others countries to demonstrate their combat capabilities both on the ground and in the air.

120 members of the 148th Fighter Wing and eight of their new Block 50 F-16 jets had a busy month in the skies over Europe.

Three different multilateral NATO exercises put the 148th to the test working alongside coalition forces.

"There was a lot of NATO countries coming together to work together. We're just in a variety of missions from air to air combat to our seed mission," said Lt. Col. Nathan Aysta, an F16 pilot with the 148th Fighter Wing.

The largest exercise, Saber Strike 2014 based in Estonia, involved 10 countries and more than 4,500 troops.

"The interesting part for us is our interaction with our counterparts, from those countries who, they work on MIC29s, we work on F16s, we all grew up in the Cold War and now we're allies and just learning how they do their thing and how we do our thing and how we can work together and make it all better," said Master Sgt. Jeff Jukich, with the 148th Fighter Wing.

The 148th also trained in Thracian Star in Bulgaria and in the Baltic Sea for NATO's BALTOPS 2014.

"To take on such a big operation where we are moving aircraft, people and equipment 4,000 miles and then picking it up and moving it again to Estonia and then back again. You do realize the quality people you have in this unit," said Lt. Col. Aysta.

Training missions helping prepare our troops for combat readiness, no matter where they're needed.

Countries that took part in all the exercises along with the 148th Fighter Wing included Estonia, Lithuania, the United Kingdom and Denmark.

Written by Kevin Jacobsen
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