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168th Wing participates in Air Defender 2023, NATO’s largest air exercise.

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey
  • 168th Wing

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska – Airmen of the 168th Wing, Alaska Air National Guard, deployed to Iceland and Scotland and returned home to Eielson Air Force Base after supporting the German-led exercise Air Defender 2023, the largest Air Force deployment exercise since NATO was formed in 1949.

The multinational exercise, involving more than 10,000 military personnel and 200 aircraft from 25 NATO and partner countries, focused on operational and tactical-level training across Germany June 12-23 and was a strong demonstration of ready and postured forces.

Exercise AD23 is a large-scale readiness exercise focused on delivering air power into Europe. The exercise strengthened vital relationships across the globe, reinforcing commitments with partners.

“The 168th Wing executed and supported the exercise with KC-135 air refueling operations along with the transport of service members demonstrating the U.S. commitment to our allies,” said Lt. Col. Rick Walsh, 168th Operations Support Squadron commander. “We played a significant role in the logistics efforts. The operations to deliver air power were very impressive and would not have been effective without our partnerships.”

Exercise AD23 integrates U.S. and allied air power to defend shared values while leveraging and strengthening vital partnerships to deter aggression worldwide.

The 168th Wing provided air refueling to partners and allies. As part of the operations, they also carried out agile combat operations demonstrating the ability to deploy a small contingent of Airmen and equipment rapidly. 

“The ability to stand up joint combined operations carrying out Air Power with multi-capable Airmen is a true demonstration of our strength,” said Walsh.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Albert, dedicated crew chief on the KC-135 Stratotanker and multi-capable Airman assigned to the 168th Wing Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, volunteered to support AD23 and said he is honored to have been able to participate.

The U.S. Air Force deployed over 100 aircraft, and 42 states deployed to support exercise AD23, with more than 2,600 members participating from the Air National Guard. Exercise AD23 provided a vital opportunity not only for multiple U.S. services to work together but also for partner nations’ militaries to ensure interoperability.