Key Field Air Guardsmen Participate in Air Defender

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Harrison W. Matheny
  • 186 Air Refueling Wing

Members of the 186th Air Refueling Wing participated in Air Defender 2023 across Europe June 12-23. This German-led, live-flying exercise showcased robust multi-national operations and collaboration with international partners and NATO allies.
Over 200 aircraft participated, with nearly 100 coming from 44 Air National Guard units from 35 states. The 12-day exercise included over 800 missions, 5,600 flight hours and 3,400 personnel.
Pilots, air traffic controllers and tactical air control party specialist airmen from the 186th ARW took part in the massive event.
Maj. Kyle Chaney, KC-135R instructor pilot with the 153 Air Refueling Squadron, flew a KC-135 Stratotanker in the exercise. With a Tennessee Air National Guardsman as his co-pilot, Maj. Chaney refueled F-16 Fighting Falcons from Poland, France, and the United States in addition to F-35 Lightening II and F-15 Eagles from the U.S.
“It was amazing to see air forces based out of locations across Europe coming together for a common goal,” Chaney said. “Our participation in the refueling mission allowed the fighter aircraft to execute their objectives in the exercise.”
Air Defender 2023 demonstrated the agility and flexibility of the U.S. Air Force, enabled by its longstanding relationships with partner nations in the largest air force redeployment since NATO was founded.
“I was thoroughly impressed by how well all of our units and NATO allies worked together,” Chaney said. “Within 24 hours of arrival, we were running operations at full capacity, thanks to our German hosts and international partners. 
“It was a seamless transition,” he continued.
Exercises like Air Defender 2023 provide valuable opportunities, not only for multiple U.S. services to work together, but also for integrated, total force training with Air National Guard units and our partner nations' militaries to ensure effective collaboration.
“I’m proud of the positive attitude displayed by Mississippi Air Guardsmen during the exercise. Our people exhibited a can-do mindset, flexibility with mission changes and a robust sense of duty,” Col. Cindy Smith, commander of the 186th Air Refueling Wing, said. “It is imperative that the United States has strong relationships with our allies in Europe, the Indo-Pacific and around the world. Demonstrating that we can and will work shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners pays dividends as we promote security, stability and peace across the globe.”
The exercise participants from Key Field exhibited that all ANG airmen are organized, trained and equipped to support allied forces at a moment’s notice and are prepared to rapidly deploy throughout the globe when called upon.
The 186th Air Refueling Wing provides over 1,100 personnel and eight KC-135R aircraft to Air Mobility Command for worldwide operations. Additional units at Key Field include the 238th Air Support Operations Squadron, the 248th Air Traffic Control Squadron, and the 186th Air Operations Group. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the MSANG, contact a recruiter at 601-484-9213 or 601-484-9828.  You can find us at