174th Attack Wing Participates In Valiant Shield For The First Time

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Duane Morgan
  • 174th Attack Wing

The 174th Attack Wing (ATKW) participated in Exercise Valiant Shield from May 25 through June 20 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Valiant Shield is a biennial joint field training exercise with a focus on integration of training in a blue-water environment. This training enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces by detecting, locating, tracking, and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land, and in cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas. The Valiant Shield series began in 2006.

Valiant Shield 2022 took place over a 12-day period, and integrated Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps assets.

This would mark the first time in eight years that the 174th ATKW would participate in the exercise.

The 174th ATKW partnered with the 119th Wing from the North Dakota Air National Guard. Together they launched, flew, and recovered MQ-9 aircraft to provide information that was critical throughout the exercise.

The MQ-9 is essential to providing awareness, and with its extensive capabilities, the MQ-9 gives insight that some other aircraft are not able to.

“The big thing is it’s the first time that the MQ-9 has been in the Pacific to participate in an exercise of that magnitude in a joint environment,” said Lt Col. Lee Nietzel, Maintenance Squadron Commander. “The Navy was the supported command, so they had the lead and everyone supported them in their efforts.”

Being able to get the MQ-9 from New York to Guam and back was a big accomplishment that made many members proud.

“The most exciting moment that I had was when we actually made it to Guam,” said Maj. Brian Hart, 108th Attack Squadron. “Because we put a lot of effort into that, and to see that it paid off by landing an aircraft in Guam. The fact that we were able to actually get out to Guam and self deploy an MQ-9, that was special.”

Pilots and sensor operators from both units participated by flying the MQ-9 aircraft from ground control stations from bases located within the continental United States.

Valiant Shield also marked the first time that airmen from the 174th ATKW were able to participate in an exercise like this. Most exercises are accomplished at the home station, and with airmen being able to be a part of this exercise means a lot.

A number of airmen from the operations squadron, as well as the maintenance squadron were able to get some on the job training in a location that wasn’t too familiar.

All of the members enjoyed their time in Guam. Spending time in a different location gave the airmen a different perspective on what it means to serve.

“I think participating in Valiant Shield is huge for the morale of our organization,” said Chief Master Sgt. Aaron Shaffer, Maintenance Squadron Senior Enlisted Leader. “It gave our airmen an opportunity to build connections and relationships with each other without the distractions of our normal lives. All of the airmen on this exercise operated as a team, and everyone pitched in to make the mission happen.”

Some airmen went on to say that being a part of this exercise is one of the most exciting things they were able to do all year.

“I personally enjoy change and a good challenge,” said Staff Sgt. Nick Maynard, Crew Chief with the 174th Maintenance Squadron. “This exercise definitely had its share of those, but I enjoyed being put in an environment with challenges that required me to think outside the box.”

The combined effort of all branches that participated made exercise Valiant Shield 2022 a success.