KINGSLEY FIELD — Preparing for a Sentry Eagle Exercise for Kingsley Field’s 173rd Fighter Wing is a lengthy endeavor; everything from structuring parking for more than 50 visiting fighter and tanker aircraft, making sure fuel supplies can cover a month’s worth of flying in five days, to planning food and lodging for hundreds of visiting aircrew members, and so on.
The 17th Sentry Eagle will be July 15-19 at the base. The public is invited to see a wide variety of fighter aircraft, military operations and static displays during an open house on Saturday, July 18. Admission to the public open house will be free.
Sentry Eagle, one of the Air National Guard’s largest air-to-air exercises, provides pilots of the National Guard, active duty and reserve components a forum in which to test their flying skills including basic fighter maneuvers and air combat tactics against different types of aircraft, close-air support and large-force employment training.
A significant part of preparation for the exercise is the creation of a Sentry Eagle patch, which adorns T-shirts and other merchandise, posters, social media platforms and press releases.
This year’s preparation led to a special Sentry Eagle 2020 patch collection.
“There are seven patches,” said Lt. Col. Adam Gaudinski, the Sentry Eagle 2020 project officer. “We put it out to the men and women of Kingsley to decide what they wanted, and we received four or five different ones and I funneled those to the designers.”
Gaudinski included a combat theme relating to the Sentry concept, that of guarding something valuable. “’What is a Sentry?’ It’s a guardian — a warrior — someone who stands at the gates to protect our assets or preserve our freedom. One who is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
In a nutshell that is air superiority, guardians in the air keeping enemies at bay, protecting friendly forces.
When Sentry Eagle 2020 kicks off members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, both active and reserve components, will take to the skies as one team, and they will all wear the Sentry Eagle 2020 patch on their right shoulder.
There are Red Air Patches, OCP Patches, 173rd Fighter Wing specific patches, overall exercise patches, but notably there is only one Basic Fighter Maneuvers Champ patch. One pilot wears it and anyone can issue a challenge to see if they can take it. A dog fight in the airspace determines the victor and who will wear it going forward.
“We expect it to change hands every day, maybe multiple times a day,” said Gaudinski.
It adds a visible wrinkle for the visiting public during the open house, if a pilot is wearing that patch then he’s the “Best Pilot” for the moment.
But when asked what his favorite patch is Gaudinski replied that it’s the overall exercise patch featuring two F-15 aircraft over Crater Lake, perhaps the most distinctive feature in the local area. He said its shape, that of a pentagon, symbolizes the actual Pentagon building located in Washington D.C. The building that integrates the different services and reflects the integration a real war requires.
In summary it reflects the quality of training Sentry Eagle 2020 will provide.