123rd Air Control Squadron Trains with NATO Allies Published Sept. 22, 2023 By Shane Hughes BLUE ASH, Ohio -- Airmen assigned to the 178th Wing’s 123rd Air Control Squadron hosted a two-week combined training exercise with eight service members from NATO allies Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Hungary. The training, which included air battle management, ground control intercept, large-force employment and air-to-air combat beyond visual range, was conducted Sept. 11-22. It was the second exercise of its kind, coming after similar training in April. “They are very good at their daily jobs, which is protection of the homeland,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. William Rief, senior operations officer assigned to the 123rd ACS. “What they don’t have is a chance to practice large-scale exercises and large-scale force employment. That’s what we’re trying to provide for them, how to do mission planning for something beyond their daily job.” Hungarian Defense Force 1st Lt. Mátyás Palik, an intercept controller assigned to Air Operations Command and Control Centre, agreed. “We try to simulate as realistic as possible the real live time environment, but cannot do it in live missions in our country,” Palik said. “It requires more aircraft, more airspace and a lot of contact between the units, but here is the equipment, the technology and the knowledge of the trainers, so here we can practice it.” The Airmen at the 123rd have extensive experience operating in forward-deployed locations around the world, and this experience allowed them to provide unique insights to the students during the exercise. “What we do back home, it’s mostly one-on-one, so it’s a totally different thing,” said Lithuanian Air Force Sgt. Ričarcdas Makrickas, a surveillance operator assigned to the Air Surveillance and Control Command. “We don’t do a lot of multiple aircraft fights, so the U.S. has a lot more experience on that, a lot more knowledge and a lot more people who are prepared to share that knowledge.” “We got the taste of the bigger air battles and how to run those things,” said Estonian Defence Forces 1st. Lt. Harri Salumäe, chief of surveillance, assigned to the Air Surveillance Wing Control and Reporting Centre. “We have a better idea now how to run the operation as well as the aircrew management. This is the best place to get the experience we need to help us defend our country and our allies.” Latvian Armed Forces Capt. Toms Rozentāls, a fighter controller assigned to the Air Surveillance Squadron Control and Reporting Center, said the training benefits all NATO allies by ensuring everyone receives uniform training standards to reduce confusion in wartime. “It’s good we have everybody on the same page with how to do controlling,” Salumāe said. “Latvia doesn’t have our own aircraft, so we will control other aircraft and they want us to control the same way.” In addition to gaining more training experience with NATO allies, the event provided another opportunity for the Ohio National Guard Airmen to work with their counterparts from Hungary, which has been paired with Ohio since 1993 through the State Partnership Program. Ohio has also maintained a partnership with Serbia since 2006. “It builds a partnership and cooperation that we would value if something were to happen in Eastern Europe,” Rief said. “From a geopolitical perspective, we’re enhancing lethality and improving wartime capabilities.” U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bryan Moore, commander of the 123rd Air Control Squadron, said the training also helps build deep, interpersonal relationships among the NATO allies participating in the training. “It’s about trust,” Moore said. “You need to be able to trust that the people on either side of you are going to do their job and they’re going to do that job well. We’re building strategic partnerships, and at their core, strategic partnerships are personal partnerships.” This year marks the 30th anniversary of the state partnership pairing between Ohio and Hungary.