SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Air Mobility Command aircrews participated in the 82nd Airborne Division’s Battalion Mass Tactical Week at Fort Bragg, North Carolina July 11-15, 2016.
The joint readiness exercise, also referred to as MASS TAC, illustrated the Mobility Air Force’s ongoing commitment to support the Army and airborne training requirements at Fort Bragg.
During the exercise, U.S. Army paratroopers executed mass tactical parachute jumps from C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. This gave both Army and Air Force units the chance to practice large-scale airdrop missions for personnel and equipment. It also provided an opportunity to enhance interoperability for worldwide crisis, contingency and humanitarian response missions.
For AMC’s aircrews, the week focused on providing efficient and productive training for all Army and Air Force personnel involved, said Lt. Col. William McDonald, who served as mission commander for BMTW 16-07.
In total, six AMC aircraft flying in three-ship formations made roughly 96 passes over Fort Bragg’s Sicily Drop Zone, airdropping over 4,700 paratroopers, six howitzer artillery combos, two Humvees and several other pieces of heavy equipment and cargo, McDonald said.
“We had double the number of aircrews normally used for this type of exercise.” McDonald said. “This highlights our commitment to the 82nd Airborne and their mission.”
“We usually only bring one crew per aircraft,” he explained. “For this exercise we brought two crews per aircraft, which allowed us to offer an additional three lifts and 1,377 jumpers per day.”
While AMC conducts airdrop exercises each month, this iteration was unique as participants of MASS TAC were thrown a curveball that required them to rapidly shift their focus to an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise.
“We are doing some type of airdrop exercise every month,” McDonald said. “However, this is the first time we have rolled a BMTW into an EDRE in order to test our ability to plan and the Army’s ability to support a large exercise inside of 96 hours.”
Planning for the EDRE began July 12 while MASS TAC was still underway, and aircraft began launching on July 16, said Lt. Col. Ben Russo, 18th Air Force deputy chief of combat operations.
The transition was significant because it doubled the teams’ work and required them to plan a larger exercise while still running another, which is no easy feat according to McDonald.
“There is a lot of training that takes place in the Mission Planning Cell,” he said. “These folks start planning the exercise days before the crews arrive. It is a great change for them to work with the Army and gain a greater understanding of how we, as MAF Airmen, fit into the bigger operational picture.”
The merging of the two exercises provided a wealth of experience for teams in the Mission Planning Cell and aircrews alike, but the relationship building is the most important aspect from McDonald’s perspective.
“The biggest thing is that it helps us make connections with people we will be working with for a real-world event,” he said. “Having those contacts to reach out to makes a huge difference.”
“Learning how the other services think and communicate really helps us understand what’s important for their mission and ensures that we provide the best support available,” McDonald concluded.
Each of these exercises represent a touchstone for Air Mobility Command. By training as a cohesively integrated global response force, mobility forces are better prepared to provide combatant commanders with the critical options necessary to respond to rapidly evolving international crises.