SAVANNAH, Ga. – Sentry Savannah 2022, held during the first two weeks of May, gives U.S. Air Force active duty, Air National Guard, and Reserve Airmen the opportunity to demonstrate readiness and deployment capabilities.
Sentry Savannah not only trains and tests the counter-air capabilities of the next generation of fighter pilots, but it also provides critical experience and training to maintenance Airmen in the rapid employment and recovery of aircraft.
Each year, reservists serve two weeks of active training – commonly called “annual tour” – in addition to monthly drill weekends, to gain and improve the skills necessary to operate effectively in a deployed environment.
For many Airmen, like Senior Airman Bryce Smith, F-35 crew chief with the 419th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Sentry Savannah is their first experience with annual tour training away from home station.
“I was nervous at first just because it's something I've never done before,” Smith said. “You always get butterflies in your stomach when you’re going into something new, but it's already been a good experience.”
Reservists at Sentry Savannah are also practicing the employment of the recently launched Multi-Capable Airman concept, where members not only gain proficiency in their own job, but also learn the roles of others in order to be better prepared to complete the mission.
Airman 1st Class Miguel Perez, fuel management technician with the 419th Maintenance Squadron, is using his first annual tour here to learn not only his job in fuels, but other important roles in maintenance as well. Perez worked alongside 419th F-35 crew chiefs to observe and learn tasks that are critical to their jobs.
“The crew chiefs and I did the launch and recovery of the jets and then they showed me how they refuel,” Perez said. “Then they showed me post-flight inspections and transparency cleaning. I learned a lot yesterday and I learned a lot more today.”
This annual tour provides Perez opportunities he might not otherwise have on a regular drill weekend.
“It's a confidence booster to be out there learning new stuff,” Perez said. “When I get back home, if they need help launching the jets, I can help them.”
The confidence and knowledge gained during exercises such as Sentry Savannah is invaluable to Reserve Airmen and their mission. Daily challenges provide participants a chance to adapt and overcome, turning them into more capable Airmen at home and overseas.
Hill Air Force Base is home to 78 F-35s. The Reserve 419th FW and active-duty 388th FW fly and maintain the fleet in a Total Force partnership that capitalizes on the strengths of both components. Together, they are the Air Force’s first combat-capable units to fly and deploy the F-35.