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NEWS | Dec. 18, 2023

Navy Reserve Star Warriors Reflect on Participation in Air National Guard’s Sentry Savannah 2023

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Chelsea Milburn, Commander, Naval Air Force Reserve Public Affairs

The Navy Reserve “Star Warriors'' of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 209 took to the Savannah, Georgia skies alongside 4th and 5th generation fighter aircraft from across the country during Air National Guard (ANG) exercise Sentry Savannah in late August, 2023.

Sentry Savannah is the ANG’s premier counter air exercise for 4th and 5th generation fighters, showcasing the nation’s combat readiness.

VAQ-209’s participation provided for a unique opportunity for joint training, resulting in valuable experience and qualifications.

The squadron is comprised of Training and Administration of the Reserve (TAR) Sailors who are full-time Reservists, Selected Reservists who serve part time, and active-duty personnel.

“During the exercise, the squadron was able to execute flight operations for the pilots to get their qualifications for the aircrew,” said VAQ-209’s quality assurance supervisor, Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic John Gumiran.
“Additionally, we were able to showcase our maintainers’ skills and talents off station, including our [Selected Reserve] counterparts, who were able to get their qualifications as well.”

Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Dustin Faulk said the experience put the squadron’s day-to-day work and training into perspective.

“I like learning about why we are there or what we are training for,” said Faulk. “It changes the run-of-the-mill things that we have to do on a day-to-day basis. And now we get to learn about new intel, operations and everything. It really puts a reason behind everything we do.”

Master Chief Aircraft Maintenanceman Jose Mata explained that participating in exercises is important for preparing Sailors for operations during overseas deployments.

“On detachment, normally the operational tempo goes up and gives us the opportunity to test our maintenance skills and our ability to work at a higher capacity, and provides readiness for future deployments,” said Mata. “When we are away from home, whether it’s Savannah, Nellis, or wherever we go throughout the U.S., it gives us a preview of what we might experience when deployed overseas. The experience factor is incredibly important for our Sailors to go through. At every detachment site, we go through some challenges, and it builds resiliency for future events that come our way.”

The experience also provided opportunities for downtime for Sailors to explore and appreciate the sights and rich culture of Savannah.

“I was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful the city is and its cultural depth,” said Faulk. “We were able to do some tours during our off time, and it was really great to learn about the city”.

VAQ-209 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Cameron “Magpie” Dekker expressed his gratitude for the opportunity for the VAQ-209 team to train and showcase their hard work during the exercise.

“I am proud to say that we absolutely killed it at Sentry Savannah,” said Dekker. “Sentry Savannah presented a dynamic situation to test and prove our ability to adapt on a moment’s notice. We were able to integrate and train with multiple different platforms from the Air National Guard, and we were even able to provide an opportunity with Sailors from NAS Jacksonville down the road. I am absolutely proud of this team.”

Sentry Savannah is held annually at the Air Dominance Center in Savannah, Georgia, one of four ANG Combat Readiness Training Centers in the United States. Fighter units from across the country come to Savannah to train together in integrated tactics such as ground training, offensive/defensive counter air missions, cruise missile defense, and weapon drop training on the range.

Commander, Naval Air Force Reserve (CNAFR) mans, trains and equips the Naval Air Force Reserve in order to provide enduring operational support and strategic depth to Navy forces that win in combat.