Mississippi is preparing its military forces for the future fight through aviation investment and robust multi-domain training for long-range missions in contested environments.
Earlier this year, Governor Tate Reeves authorized $20 million for a new fire rescue station and to convert the existing facility into a small air terminal and deployment processing center at Meridian’s Key Field, home of the 186th Air Refueling Wing. The fire rescue station supports all Air and Army National Guard aviation assets as well as the Meridian Regional Airport’s civilian and commercial traffic. With an aircraft traffic count of over 92,000 last year, Key Field has the most air traffic of any airport in Mississippi.
“Mississippi’s commitment to our service members is unwavering,” said Governor Tate Reeves. “The investment at Key Field will continue to fuel America’s air power with the KC-135 and prepare us for the future fight. Key Field is a prime location to operate the next generation of aerial refueling aircraft with its available ramp space and proximity to numerous aerial refueling tracks. We are proud to support this important mission.”
The fire station project will also allow conversion of the second floor into aircrew quarters to meet Alert Line mission requirements. These facilities, along with the over 52,000-square-foot main aircraft hangar, are essential to supporting future air refueling platforms.
The 186th ARW of the Air National Guard provides over 1,100 personnel and eight KC-135R aircraft to Air Mobility Command operations. Over the past 30 years, the 186th has supported Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, among other missions. More recently, the 186th played a key role in the downing of a Chinese spy balloon over the Atlantic.
“The 186th is one of the best Air National Guard units in the country, and we are thankful to have them in Mississippi. This investment and training will ensure operational readiness today and in the future as Mississippi proudly contributes to our nation’s defense,” Reeves said.
As the country defends against future threats, the next generation of tankers – the KC-46 platform – will fly farther to project power, employ assets, and sustain missions. The KC-46 has multi-mission capabilities that allows it to reach remote locations where space flexibility and joint operations are necessary to meet objectives against emerging threats.
To prepare for these threats, the state recently hosted SOUTHERN STRIKE, an annual National Guard Bureau exercise that combined joint U.S. forces and international allies for a 15-day integrated combat training exercise across air, land, sea and cyber domains.
Over 2,000 personnel from 47 units around the country participated in this year’s exercise which focused on a new scheme of maneuver called Agile Combat Employment (ACE). ACE disperses forces to multiple locations while providing the maximum flexibility to rapidly maneuver people and equipment. The training allowed units to practice combat tactics, command and control, and employing assets over large distances.