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18th Wing squadrons target combat readiness during Turkey Shoot

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nestor Cruz
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Kadena Airmen battled head-to-head Jan. 26-30 as they took the skies for the 18th Wing Turkey Shoot competition. 

The annual event, sponsored by the 18th Operations Group, tests the ability of fighter pilots, rescue specialists, tanker crews, command and control specialists and maintainers, among many others, to react in the face of simulated threats and to work together as a cohesive fighting force. 

"The Turkey Shoot is an Air Force tradition that goes back to the early days of tactical aviation," said Maj. Michelle Shicks, 18th Operations Support Squadron weapons and tactics chief and Turkey Shoot coordinator. "The competition helps units focus tactically, adds some 'simulated' combat stress to our daily training, and allows outstanding performers within our wing to be recognized." 

Participating squadrons included the 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons, 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron, 909th Air Refueling Squadron, 623rd Air Control Flight, 31st and 33rd Rescue Squadrons and the 18th Operational Support Squadron's intelligence and weather flights. 

The presence of so many capabilities in one location is a huge bonus for Kadena, according to Maj. Shicks. 

"The 18th Wing can conduct a robust Turkey Shoot combining fighters, command and control, intel, maintenance and tankers, unlike the majority of the bases within the combat Air Forces," said Major Shicks. 

Added into the mix were 10 F-16s from the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, playing the role of "Red Air" against Kadena's F-15s. 

"[The F-16s] provided terrific adversary support," said Capt. Brian Knauf, 44th Fighter Squadron A-Flight commander. "They presented difficult problems for the participating units and tested our skills during every sortie. The aggressive mindset of 18th Wing personnel during training and execution was key to the realism and applicability of the exercise as well." 

The competition provided participants the opportunity to improve their skills and push themselves further to get the mission done. 

"Everyone brings their 'A' game to the competition and puts in their best effort," said Staff Sgt. Jose Esparza, 961th AACS air surveillance technician. "It gives us a more robust training scenario that we don't get on a daily basis. It helps us to identify our strengths and weaknesses to enable us to better accomplish our real-world mission." 

Airmen also view the competition as a chance to increase their combat readiness and strengthen the bonds within their respective career fields. 

"The Turkey Shoot helps the 18th AES showcase our ability to respond to Pacific Command beneficiaries in need of medical care," said Capt. Tracey Sapp, 18th AES operations flight commander and assistant director of operations. "The event also allows us to have a little in-house competition to build esprit de corps." 

Turkey Shoots in the past were normally scheduled in conjunction with a "war week" or exercise, but this year's event was a stand-alone competition. 

"From a big picture perspective, these competitions help us as a wing work together and create a cohesiveness that is invaluable during contingency operations whether that contingency is close to home or far from Kadena," said Major Shicks.