2022: 403rd Wing Year in Review

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Marnee A. C. Losurdo
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

Training, exercises and deployments were common themes in 2022, all in efforts to ensure 403rd Wing Reserve Citizen Airmen were Ready Now.

“The men and women of this wing have done an outstanding job preparing for and in the execution of our mission,” said Col. Stuart M. Rubio, 403rd Wing commander. “Our Airmen are at the forefront of Air Force operations with more than 60 of our unit members deploying overseas supporting combatant commanders and another 60 reservists participating in exercises this year. In addition to that, the wing also provided life-saving weather data for National Hurricane Center forecasts. Our wing members are key to providing our nation with critical capabilities here and abroad.”

Here is a recap of some of the major accomplishments of 403rd Wing reservists.

Unit Effectiveness Inspection

The wing successfully completed it unit effectiveness inspection in October. A team of inspectors from the Air Force Reserve Command Inspector General office visited the wing Oct. 13-18 to evaluate the unit’s mission effectiveness, efficiency, and readiness.

“We are the Wing of Choice and we proved that by doing everything we needed to accomplish to ensure a successful UEI. We need to continue this momentum to ensure that compliance is part of our ‘every day’ culture. We need to work together to ensure we are making our wing a more efficient and effective place to work.”

Training opportunities and exercises

Always training for their next deployment, members of the 815th Airlift Squadron participated in six operations and exercises this year and flew 1,158 sorties and 2,215 hours, according to Maj. Scott Schavrien, 815th AS director of operations. Some of those training events, which also included other wing units, were Exercises Iron Mytai in Townsville, Australia Aug. 5 to Sept. 14, Resolute Sentinel in Guat City, Guatemala June 2-24, and the 22nd Air Force Exercise Rally in the Swamp June 5-11.

Resolute Sentinel 2022 was a 12th Air Force-led U.S. Southern Command exercise that provided joint training and improved readiness of United States and partner nations through humanitarian assistance activities, while integrating combat interoperability and disaster response training. Members of the 815th Airlift Squadron, 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the 41st Aerial Port Squadron from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, traveled to Guatemala to participate in Resolute Sentinel 2022, June 4- 24. Also, that same month, 815th members delivered cargo, personnel, and provided air support for Rally in the Swamp June 7-9. The Florida-based exercise tested Reserve Citizen Airmen on agile combat support by challenging them with realistic scenarios that support a full spectrum of operations.

It wasn’t only the wing’s tactical airlift capabilities that were put to the test. Members from the 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and Wing Staff traveled to Kodiak, Alaska, May 2-15 to assist with the Innovative Readiness Training program’s Kodiak Island Arctic Care 2022 event. According to their website, IRT is a collaborative program designed to produce mission ready forces, civil-military partnerships, and stronger communities.

For Arctic Care, the IRT program teamed up with the Kodiak Area Native Association to provide medical services such as dental, vision and general healthcare as well as veterinary services for residents of the islands, said Maj. Linda McCullough, 403rd Wing executive officer, who served the mission in a personnel role.

Defenders from the 403rd Security Forces Squadron also got the opportunity to take part in some unique training. Several members traveled to Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, to participate in the Integrated Defense Leadership Course May 9-23.The IDLC, a relatively new training course offered to Air Force Reserve defenders, lasts two weeks and is designed to provide Reserve Citizen Airmen with intensely focused hands-on training to achieve and maintain combat readiness, a level of training often difficult to achieve during a once-a-month Unit Training Assembly weekend.

The field-intensive training course provided a scenario where the defenders landed in a fictional foreign country, staged at Camp James A. Garfield Joint Military Training Center, and were tasked with setting up and defending their base and aircraft, said Staff Sgt. Randall Boone, combat arms instructor for the 403rd SFS.

Year-round weather reconnaissance

Although they are referred to as the Hurricane Hunters, the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron provided year-round weather reconnaissance to the National Center of Environmental Prediction and National Hurricane Center. On Jan. 9, the flew their first atmospheric river and winter storm missions of the season in support of the National Winter Season Operations Plan, which lasts from November through April. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, atmospheric rivers are long, narrow regions in the atmosphere that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics. These columns carry an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River and often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow upon landfall. In all, the 53rd WRS stayed at Mather for 13 weeks supporting these operations.

The 2022 tropical weather reconnaissance season, which started June 1, concluded Nov. 30 with the squadron flying 1,095 hours and 109 missions into 13 named storms. The Atlantic season started off slow, with the unit flying 15% of their season hours from May 29 to Aug. 31. They flew the remainder of their hours from Sept. 1 to Nov. 10 into major Hurricanes such as Ian, Nicole, and Fiona, which caused extensive damage to Florida and Puerto Rico. The data that the Hurricane Hunters collect is sent to the NHC for use in their forecasts.

In total, the unit flew 690 sorties and 2,547 hours for the year, which includes training, winter storm and tropical weather reconnaissance in the Atlantic and Pacific.

Other notables for the squadron, included taking part in outreach events such as the Caribbean Hurricane Awareness Tour and Hurricane Awareness Tour. These tours are designed to help communities in Mexico, the Caribbean, and U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. This was the first time in three years, the squadron took part in the events which had previously been cancelled due to the impacts from COVID-19. Also, in May unit members participated in an interagency briefing for President Joseph Biden, providing a static display for him at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

And the squadron began the process of returning their 10-WC-130J Super Hercules to their vintage shiny paint job and historic “Weather” tail marking. Two of ten aircraft now have the shiny paint with the other 8 scheduled to be painted over the next few years.

Accelerating Change

As part of a beta test of a new UTA schedule setup, the 403rd Wing tested a three-day UTA weekend Feb. 4-6 focused on hands-on training with an emphasis on multi-capable Airmen. The unit is one of three in the Air Force Reserve Command trying out a revamped UTA schedule, utilizing 3-day and virtual UTAs. They held their second three-day UTA Sept. 9-11, taking part in a wing-wide exercise Smoked Mullet designed to enhance skill sets for Multi-Capable Airmen and for Agile Combat Employment.

And a team from the Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, visited the 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron in September to provide assistance and training as a new electronic healthcare record medical system, MHS GENESIS, which rolled out Sept. 24. MHS GENESIS is an electronic health record system that provides both doctors and patients secure, digital access to medical records. Once fully deployed, the program will be the single health record for military personnel, veterans and their families, allowing medical records to transfer seamlessly from base to base, or to non-Department of Defense medical providers

The wing also implemented a new professional development council in February, called the 403rd University. The PDC is designed to help Airmen and civilians reach personal and professional goals and assist commanders by providing career enhancement support through courses, seminars and other events to enhance leadership, management, and supervisory skills.

Family Fun

The wing hosted it’s first Family Day since 2019, and the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020. The celebration took place May 14 with more than 1,000 people in attendance, where they had the opportunity to have a picnic lunch, tour an aircraft, and play games.

Leadership changes

The wing also welcomed new leadership this year to include 403rd Wing Vice Commander Col. Shawn Mattingly, 403rd Aerial Port Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Stephanie Lee, 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron Commander Col. Ada M. Collier, 403rd Logistics Readiness Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Stephanie Tillman; 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Command Lt. Col. Stephen Pituch; 815th Airlift Squadron Lt. Col. Scott Hendrix, and 12th Operational Weather Flight Commander Lt. Col. Lindsey Fennewald. And, Lt. Col. William Magee, who was previously the deputy commander of the 403rd Maintenance Group, assumed command of the group.

These were just a few of the 403rd Wing members’ accomplishments.

“Each year brings its own unique challenges, but regardless of what the year brings we will be ready,” said Rubio. “Enjoy this holiday season with your family, and we will be ready for the new challenges that 2023 will bring.”

(Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Kendziorek and Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman, 403rd Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this article)