Working together for peace: Polish partners integrate at Battle Creek Air National Guard’s Air Operations Center

07.31.2019
Story by Tech. Sgt. Jason Boyd
110th Wing  

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – “Air mastery is today the supreme expression of military air power.” – Winston Churchill. For Airman at the 217th Air Operations Group (AOG), 110th Wing, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, Mich., this is a way of life.

For the first time in the Michigan Air National Guard history, foreign partners are working in the 217th Air Operations Group Air Operations Center. Three members of the Polish military are in Battle Creek as part of Northern Strike 19 during the last week of July 2019, working alongside Michigan and Illinois National Guard members observing and assisting in operations for Northern Strike 19 (Air National Guard phot by Tech. Sgt. Jason Boyd/released).

Northern Strike 19 is the Department of Defense’s largest joint, reserve-component readiness exercise, held annually in Northern Michigan. This year, the tasking of sorties over Northern Michigan is run during the exercise by the men and women working in the 217th Air Operations Group’s Air Operations Center (AOC). Their job is to plan, control, and Implement the air tasking orders for the exercise training missions. While this is their day-to-day tasking, this year’s exercise has a special significance.

For the first time in Michigan Air National Guard history, foreign partners are working in the 217th AOC. Three members of the Polish military are working in Battle Creek as part of Northern Strike 19 during the last week of July, alongside Michigan and Illinois Air National Guard members observing and assisting in operations for Northern Strike 19.

“This is a big step for foreign partners to be in the Air Operations Center. It was a process, but we followed the guidelines and were able to get it done,” said 1st Lt. Megan Serrano, combat airspace specialist, 217th Air Operations Group.

An AOC is the senior element of the Theater Air Control System (TACS). The Joint Force Commander (JFC) assigns a Joint Forces Air Component Commander (JFACC) to lead air operations. If allied or coalition forces are part of the operation, the JFC and JFACC will be re-designated as the Combined Force Commander (CFC) and Combined Forces Air Component Commander (CFACC), respectively.

“While we have been partners with Poland since 1993, we have been working with them as advisors since 2013 at their AOC to help them achieve NATO certification,” said Col. Daniel McSeveney, commander, 183rd Combat Operations Squadron, Springfield, Illinois. “We came here because it’s a great opportunity for the Polish to observe dynamic targeting and joint fires integration, which is exactly what the 217th is doing during Northern Strike 19.”

The Illinois–Poland National Guard Partnership is one of 22 European partnerships that makeup the U.S. European Command State Partnership Program and one of more than 75 worldwide partnerships that make up the National Guard State Partnership Program. The relationship between the Illinois National Guard and the Republic of Poland is an enduring partnership that was established in 1993. The Michigan National Guard is similarly linked with the Republic of Latvia.

“We have an Air Operations Center in Warsaw, Poland, which is very similar to this one,” said Lt. Col. Zbigniew Pilat, Polish Air Operations Command, Warsaw, Poland. “This is my first time in the State of Michigan. While much of what is done here is similar, some things are different and it’s good to get a different perspective.”

Since July 2013 The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) also uses the Combined Air Operation Centre concept at two locations (Torrejon, Spain and Uedem, Germany) with a deployable Air Operations Centre at Poggio Renatico, Italy.

The AOC allows them to work with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers on the ground at Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center, Rogers City Calcite Quarry, and other training locations during Northern Strike to grant them airspace for aircraft for the exercise.

“Northern Strike is a very interesting exercise. Getting to watch how the U.S. Air Force cooperates with the JTAC and learn some of your solutions to things is good experience,” said Maj. Pawel Przyscuha, “This can be useful for both our military and yours to compare ways of handling situations.”

Northern Strike 19 has roughly 6,000 players from seven different countries along with members of all branches of the U.S armed forces.

“The state partnerships we have with the Baltic States are important,” said Lt. Col. Ross Evenhouse, director, 217th Combat Operations Squadron. “Just the experience of working together is crucial, it helps to transfer knowledge, expertise, and compare capabilities, and it enhances our capabilities if we have to work together in a real world situation.”

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