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NEWS | March 22, 2018

Kentucky Air Guardsmen integrate into 138th Field Artillery Brigade to support NATO training exercise in Germany

By Capt. Gus LaFontaine 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 Lt. Col. Ash Groves has been an Airman for 21 years. He’s was a member of the United States Air Force from 1998-2004 whereupon he joined the Kentucky Air National Guard. During his time in the Air Guard he’s held a wide variety of positions from Director of Operations to Commander, to his current role as the Director of Air Plans and Programming with Joint Force Headquarters.

However, Groves recently found himself serving in a position he’d never served in before. He was attached to the 138th Field Artillery Brigade as an Air Liaison Officer during Dynamic Front 18, a multinational field artillery training exercise held in Grafenwoehr, Germany. Groves was the lone Airmen among a formation of more than 100 Kentucky Army National Guard Artillerymen.

Groves’ inclusion in the training exercise was by specific request of 138th Field Artillery Brigade Commander, Dennis Hawthorne.
“The addition of Lt. Col. Groves to the mission provided the basic level of joint integration of fires, both ground and air,’ said Hawthorne. HIs knowledge and experience in the Kentucky Air National Guard provided a level of proficiency to the 138th that we identified as a weakness prior to the training exercise.”

Groves brought his skills to the Dynamic Front exercise.

“I think similarly to the way the Airmen that are participating in this exercise do. For example, an Airman might say ‘we own the air space.’ That’s always going to be the answer from an Airman because that's what we do, we fight to own the Air domain. In reality, once we achieve the priorities of Air Dominance and Superiority, we must become good stewards of this valuable medium. At that point it must become managed as common use air space and, in this specific engagement, all users must work hard to promote agile maneuverability for fires and counter-fires for the ground offensive. Airmen and Soldiers have to work together to find the best way to manage that common use air space, especially in a congested and multinational battlefield.”

Airspace management is a critical component to field artillery operations because field artillery munitions can travel up to 80,000 feet in altitude.

Groves’ expertise was cited as a key contribution by his 138th counterparts. First Lt. Cody McMillen referenced Groves as a key contributor to increasing the speed of fires missions during Dynamic Front. Speaking of the Air Force’s role in controlling air space during the training exercise, McMillen said,
 “It was a challenge to come to terms and agreement with each other, however with a lot
assistance from our Air Force liaison, [Lt. Col. Groves], we were able to sit down and figure out the best solution.”

Groves sees a bigger picture to the benefits of Kentucky Airmen and Soldiers training together.

 “We’re a joint state. It seems to me that very few of us understand what the other one does or
even what capabilities they have,’ said Groves. ’We need to understand that we’re not so dissimilar. We can, and do, complement each other.”

Hawthorne agreed, “Not only does this opportunity of collaborative training provide greater training proficiency, but enhances the understanding of what both services bring to the fight.”

Groves felt the experience was mutually beneficial. “I enjoyed bringing the air perspective to the Army formation and I learned a lot. I also enjoy what the Army gave me for my toolbox. The Army will think of things from a different angle than I do. A lot of times their solution and my solution is combined to create a better solution than I would have ever came up with by myself.”

His experience has also increased his confidence in both fighting forces.
“Having worked with Army and Air officers, enlisted service members senior and junior, all the way down to the E1, I can say that there’s extremely professional, talented people in the Kentucky National Guard. Without a doubt, hands down, if I had to go into a fight tonight I know where I’d want to be.”

Groves feels strongly that his experience can be expanded to include more Kentucky Guardsmen.
“The sky’s the limit on the potential here. We’ve got to have leaders on both sides that find those
niches that can be filled with Soldiers or Airmen during training events. This is how the Kentucky National Guard will become the best version of itself.”

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