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Wing aircrews fly war-time training scenarios at Sentry Aloha

An aircrew from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron banks a C-130 Hercules over one of the islands of Hawaii during exercise Sentry Aloha Aug. 23, 2016. The Kentucky Air National Guard and multiple other Air Guard units took part in the exercise, which tested multiple airframes and aircrews in wartime scenarios. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Robert Buchberger)

An aircrew from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron banks a C-130 Hercules over one of the islands of Hawaii during exercise Sentry Aloha Aug. 23, 2016. The Kentucky Air National Guard and multiple other Air Guard units took part in the exercise, which tested multiple airframes and aircrews in wartime scenarios. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Robert Buchberger)

A Georgia Air National Guard C-130 Hercules prepares for take-off at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, as part of exercise Sentry Aloha Aug. 23, 2016. The Kentucky Air National Guard and multiple other Air Guard units took part in the exercise, which tested multiple airframes and aircrews in wartime scenarios. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Robert Buchberger)

A Georgia Air National Guard C-130 Hercules prepares for take-off at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, as part of exercise Sentry Aloha Aug. 23, 2016. The Kentucky Air National Guard and multiple other Air Guard units took part in the exercise, which tested multiple airframes and aircrews in wartime scenarios. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Robert Buchberger)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- More than 60 Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing and three Kentucky Air National Guard C-130s arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, between Aug. 8 and 30 to participate in exercise Sentry Aloha, a large-force exercise designed to test aircrews with war-time scenarios involving fighter aircraft.

The Hawaii Air National Guard led the exercise, which was conducted around the Hawaiian Islands, said Lt. Col. Randall Hood, chief of tactics for the Kentucky Air National Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron. Aircrews flew multiple scenarios, acting as both friendly and hostile forces while integrating with a variety of aircraft, including F-15s, F-16s and F-22s.

"The goal for us was to integrate with the fighters," said Hood, who served as the unit's mission commander for Sentry Aloha. "To see what they can provide us, see what our limitations are and to interact so we're speaking the same language. You don't want the first time that you go into the big fight on a large scale to be the first time our crews interact with fighters. You want to learn how they speak and how they talk."

For 2nd Lt. Travis Carter, a pilot in the 165th Airlift Squadron, the exercise was eye-opening.

"At first it was kind of like listening to a new language, but after hearing them talk and we would go into a debrief after the exercise, we got to listen to them speak the lingo in person and see the animation that followed with it, and you could decipher what they were saying," Carter said. "At the end of the exercise, I felt like I could pretty much understand what they were talking about."

The aircrews also had time to train for less kinetic missions like search and rescue, special operations insertion via high-altitude low-opening airdrops, unfamiliar low-level training, and heavy equipment and Container Delivery System airdrops.

Hood said Sentry Aloha provided many crewmembers with their first opportunity to train over open water. Normally, a C-130 can fly low over land and hide from the enemy, but that's not possible over water. Aircrews were able to hone their evasion skills during Sentry Aloha by escaping aggressors, which boosted their confidence and validated the tactics that they have been taught.

"You can read about it in a book, and you can train to it, but to go out and actually do it is really a big deal," he said. "I hope these guys never have to execute the tactics they learned, because if they do, it's not a good day. But at the same time, by doing these things we develop confidence and abilities to do these things well and safely."

Cater described the training scenarios as "an exciting experience."

"We would go into a virtual box in the sky, a fighter aircraft would come and engage us, and we would have to defend against them. That was an experience to see what the aircraft was capable of, and you as a pilot try to defeat all of the tactics they presented to you. It was really an exciting experience."