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TAKING OFF TO THE GREAT WHITE NORTH

A United States Air Force F-15C Eagle, piloted by Captain Andrew Armey from the 144th Fighter Wing out of Fresno, Calif. takes off from 5 Wing Goose Bay, Canada while participating in Exercise Vigilant Shield 16, Oct. 20, 2015. From Oct 15-26 2015, approximately 700 members from the Canadian Armed Forces, the United States Air Force, United States Navy and the United States Air National Guard are deploying to Iqaluit, Nunavut, and 5 Wing Goose Bay, Newfoundland, Labrador for Exercise Vigilant Shield 16. (US Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge/released)

A United States Air Force F-15C Eagle, piloted by Captain Andrew Armey from the 144th Fighter Wing out of Fresno, Calif. takes off from 5 Wing Goose Bay, Canada while participating in Exercise Vigilant Shield 16, Oct. 20, 2015. From Oct 15-26 2015, approximately 700 members from the Canadian Armed Forces, the United States Air Force, United States Navy and the United States Air National Guard are deploying to Iqaluit, Nunavut, and 5 Wing Goose Bay, Newfoundland, Labrador for Exercise Vigilant Shield 16. (US Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Chris Drudge/released)

5 WING GOOSE BAY, NEWFOUNDLAND and LABRADOR, Canada -- Airmen from across the U.S. joined forces with the U.S. Navy and Royal Canadian Air Force for the North American Aerospace Defense Command Field Training Exercise Vigilant Shield 16 exercise at 5 Wing Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Oct. 15 through Oct. 26.

The VS 16 NORAD Field Training Exercise is an annual event to train the different units in Canada and the United States supporting NORAD to execute the aerospace warning and defense missions they are called upon to accomplish.

This year's exercise built upon previous years' training successes when deploying air assets and personnel to the North. The exercise also showcased sovereignty operations in the challenging environment of the High Arctic.

"We have a long standing relationship with the Canadian Air Force," said Lt. Col. Robert Swertfager, Air Expeditionary Wing commander for VS 16. "They're extremely professional and capable, which makes inter-operability very easy."

The effective defense of aerospace sovereignty in the North and the High Arctic requires a collective approach which is demonstrated during exercises like VS 16 NORAD FTX where Canadian and U.S. military forces integrate to meet possible threats to our nations.

This exercise provided crucial training opportunities for over 700 personnel and a variety of aircraft from Canada and the United States to improve on their inter-operability and to demonstrate NORAD's ability to defend North America.

"Vigilant Shield not only demonstrated the capability of the 144th and other units, but enabled us to come away with many lessons learned," said Swertfager.

One of the many challenges that everyone faced while operating in the High Arctic was the weather. Freezing conditions and blowing snow made everyday operations more difficult, but not impossible. Everyone involved proved that the mission could be accomplished no matter what Mother Nature threw at them.

This exercise also helped validate the 144th's ability to operate from a forward operating location, such as Goose Bay, and provided vital information to NORAD and Air Force planners which will be used for future missions.

"The mission that was accomplished here was, for me, one of the most important and rewarding missions I've done in 12 years of flying," said Maj. Jonathan Burd, 144th Fighter Wing project officer for VS 16. "The mission was incredible and I was honored to be a part of it."