62nd AW supports global response force exercise

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tim Chacon
  • 62nd Airlift Wing
The C-17 Globemaster III aircraft is capable of delivering tailored force to anywhere in the world in less than 96 hours and that is just what they showcased Aug. 6.

C-17s from Joint Base Lewis-McChord staged out of March Air Reserve Base, California, participated in a Joint Operation Access Exercise (JOAX) at the National Training Center on Fort Irwin.

The Air Force's goal was to validate their doctrine of a global response force. Working with the Army they set an example of the type of mobilization they are capable of.

"We air dropped Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division on an airfield, which they then seized," said Capt. Sean McConville, JOAX C-17 lead planner, "Then we built up that [force] with and air land follow on of their equipment."

The three 62nd Airlift Wing C-17s were part of a total of six C-17s coming from both Joint Base Charleston, North Carolina Joint Base and Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

The other air assets included 11 C-130s from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina and Little Rock, Air Force Base, Arkansas.

McConville said the C-17's and C130's delivered more than 616 Soldiers and 850,000 pounds of equipment through air-drop and air-land operations.

The Soldiers and equipment were loaded on to the aircraft at March and flown to the NTC in two separate cycles. Those capable of being air dropped were parachuted out of the aircraft and others were off loaded on the ground, after landing in the southern California dessert.

Both iterations of movements were conducted in darkness and the landings were done on un-paved dirt runways, but that wasn't all of the obstacles to overcome.

"In addition to the Semi Prepared Runway Operations and night vision goggles we had significant terrain to deal with," said McConville. "This was one place where the junior planners we brought along really showcased their talent."

According to McConville one of the most time consuming problems to deal with is working the C-17s with the C-130s.

"About half our time was finding a way to bring in C-17's at very high speeds into a formation over an objective with the slower moving C-130's," said McConville.

The pilots got the aircraft to the drop and landing zones, but it is the loadmasters who are responsible for the unloading and dropping of the personnel and equipment, as well as helping to make adjustments on to the plan.

"Sometimes communication can be difficult," said Staff Sgt. Scott Delano, 8th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. "The Army has their objectives and sometimes we don't get them till the last minute, but we just have to be flexible to get the mission done."

Despite the lack of a built-up runway, the night time operations, treacherous terrain and continual changes to the plan, the Air Force was able to deliver all the Soldiers and equipment in less than nine hours from the time of the first plan took off.

"Seeing a big plan like this come together after hours and hours is my favorite part," said Delano. "And we did it in less time than we were supposed to."

The participants in the exercise all seemed to learn from the experience and handle the challenges that were put upon them.

"This kind of training, where you have open ended situations and there is no necessarily right or wrong answers is a great way to teach critical thinking," said McConville. "I hope that some of the people who are training with us will get to a point where they can bring the kind of thinking they learned in these exercises to the strategic and organizational level."