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123rd Airlift Wing participates in multi-national combat exercise

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing unload cargo from a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft upon arriving in Edmonton, Canada, on May 28, 2016. More than 30 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard are currently deployed here to participate in Maple Flag, an aerial combat training exercise involving forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing unload cargo from a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft upon arriving in Edmonton, Canada, on May 28, 2016. More than 30 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard are currently deployed here to participate in Maple Flag, an aerial combat training exercise involving forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Airman 1st Class Alex Koehler, a loadmaster for the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing, uses the C-130 aircraft’s rear vision device in the airspace above Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake, Alberta, on May 31, 2016. More than 30 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard are currently deployed here to participate in Maple Flag, an aerial combat training exercise involving forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Airman 1st Class Alex Koehler, a loadmaster for the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing, uses the C-130 aircraft’s rear vision device in the airspace above Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake, Alberta, on May 31, 2016. More than 30 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard are currently deployed here to participate in Maple Flag, an aerial combat training exercise involving forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

A Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft flies in the airspace above Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake, Alberta, on May 31, 2016. More than 30 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard are currently deployed here to participate in Maple Flag, an aerial combat training exercise involving forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

A Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft flies in the airspace above Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake, Alberta, on May 31, 2016. More than 30 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard are currently deployed here to participate in Maple Flag, an aerial combat training exercise involving forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing load a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on May 28, 2016, before departing to Canada to participate in Exercise Maple Flag. The aerial combat training simulation involves forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing load a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., on May 28, 2016, before departing to Canada to participate in Exercise Maple Flag. The aerial combat training simulation involves forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing unload cargo from a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft upon arriving in Edmonton, Canada, May 28, 2016. More than 30 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard are currently deployed here to participate in Maple Flag, an aerial combat training exercise involving forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing unload cargo from a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft upon arriving in Edmonton, Canada, May 28, 2016. More than 30 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard are currently deployed here to participate in Maple Flag, an aerial combat training exercise involving forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing arrive in Edmonton, Canada, May 28, 2016 for Exercise Maple Flag. More than 30 Kentucky Air Guardsmen are participating in the aerial combat training exercise, which includes military forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing arrive in Edmonton, Canada, May 28, 2016 for Exercise Maple Flag. More than 30 Kentucky Air Guardsmen are participating in the aerial combat training exercise, which includes military forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron receive a briefing upon arriving in Edmonton, Canada, May 28, 2016. More than 30 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard are currently deployed here to participate in Maple Flag, an aerial combat training exercise involving forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Squadron receive a briefing upon arriving in Edmonton, Canada, May 28, 2016. More than 30 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard are currently deployed here to participate in Maple Flag, an aerial combat training exercise involving forces from multiple countries. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Joshua Horton)

EDMONTON, Canada -- More than 30 Airmen from the 123rd Airlift wing and two Kentucky Air National Guard C-130s arrived here between May 26 and 28 to participate in Exercise Maple Flag, an aerial combat training simulation involving troops from multiple countries.

The large-scale exercise is staged annually at Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake to allow junior aircrews to gain experience in a combat environment, said Lt. Col. Charlie Hans, chief of scheduling for the Kentucky Air Guard's 165th Airlift Squadron and the unit's mission commander for Maple Flag. 

"What we've found over many years is that when pilots enter combat, their highest chance of failure is within their first 10 sorties," Hans said. "So if we can get them into a simulated combat environment and provide them with some experience, then they have a much higher chance of survival."

During the exercise, the Kentucky troops will be working with Airmen from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, along with military forces from Canada, Germany, France and Great Britain.

Airman 1st Class Alex Koehler, a Kentucky Air Guard loadmaster who is participating in Maple Flag for the first time, said he hopes the experience will allow him to "coordinate more efficiently during wartime operations."

"I hope to receive the training necessary for me to aid the Kentucky Air National Guard in maintaining a high level of mission readiness," Koehler said. "Hopefully, as a newer and younger member of the unit, this training will help me to become a more well-rounded crew member."

Hans notes that one of the goals is making sure aircrews are proficient at dealing with air-to-air and ground-to-air threats.

"We can't shoot back in a C-130," Hans said. "Our only defense is to basically hide and survive, and then get our mission done and get out of there.

"The other goal is to get proficient at mission planning," Hans continued. "When we go out and fly, there's a ton of stuff that goes on behind the scenes. This includes working together with the other countries and aircraft in order to achieve objectives and putting all that information together for a mission."