Air Guard in Ukraine for Air Sovereignty Exercise

More than 140 members of Air National Guard units in Alabama, California, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Washington arrived at Mirgorod AB, Ukraine, for Safe Skies 2011, a US European Command-sponsored air sovereignty exercise with the Ukrainian and Polish air forces. This exchange “is important to US interests, in that it helps promote regional stability” and “increases our collective capacity to address common security challenges,” said Lt. Col. Robert Swertfager, Safe Skies 2011 project officer and an F-16 pilot with the California ANG’s 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno. A total of seven F-16s from the Alabama Air Guard’s 187th Fighter Wing in Montgomery and the Iowa Air Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines touched down at Mirgorod on July 16, following the arrival of advanced teams of airmen. The F-16s are among the first American fighters to visit the former Soviet-bloc country, according to Air Guard officials. They will fly engagements with Ukrainian Su-27s and Mig-29s and Polish F-16s. (Mirgorod report by Maj. Matthew T. Mutti)