SD Air National Guard brings fighters West River, opportunity for crews

ELLSWORTH AFB, S.D. — The South Dakota Air National Guard landed West River for Combat Raider this week. While it’s an opportunity to train a little closer to home for some.

“One of our focuses when we’re here is working on our agile combat employment posture and that is basically deploying to a location with a small group of people and a small group of equipment and be able to function for a week,” said SMSgt Andrew Mager, Senior Enlisted Leader.


Working out of Ellsworth is not common for the unit as they predominately take off out of Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls. It gives the unit a new space to train but also, allows West River guardsmen to serve a little closer to home.

TSgt Hugo Estes is from Sturgis and while military careers run in his family, he paved his own way with the Air National Guard.

“The guard is really unique in the fact that I can still have a civilian life but be able to still serve our country,” said Estes.

In addition to driving East River for drill once a month, he tests his skills during exercises like Combat Raider. He says his crew checks the munitions and delivers them to the aircraft, then the jets go out and execute the mission of the day.

Once the jet lands, they look over the aircraft to ensure all is in place. But for as much work goes into the air operations, the ground crews have their own full plate.

“What most people don’t understand is that for every flight hour of the F-16, it takes 46 hours of maintenance to get that jet back in the air again,” said Mager.

“It’s just exciting to see everyone come together and work together and be able to have different types of aircraft but still produce the same type of air power,” said Estes.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News