Leaving the warmth, humidity and rain of the south and heading north for cooler temperatures, the 815th Airlift Squadron put their Reserve Airmen to the check in Alaska with each the temperatures and the terrain, July 13-16.
Working with the 4th Infantry Brigade Fight Workforce Airborne, twenty fifth Infantry Division, the 815th AS offered airlift for greater than over 1,300 paratroopers for 3 days, in addition to airdrops for heavy gear on the fourth day, throughout a coaching train at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
“With the ability to function successfully and effectively in a number of climates and in various kinds of terrain is a vital a part of our coaching,” mentioned Maj. George Metros, 815th AS teacher pilot and train mission commander.
Hauling cargo, conducting airdrop and airlift is the mission of the 815th AS, the Flying Jennies, however their coaching is generally carried out in places just like their dwelling station at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, utilizing the C-130J Super Hercules.
Metros mentioned they’re used to working in locations like Fort Polk, Louisiana, Fort Benning, Georgia, and Pope AFB, North Carolina.
“With the ability to come up right here to JBER, to work with the third Wing utilizing their services, plus airdrop a unit that we haven’t dropped an entire lot prior to now, the 4/twenty fifth IBCT (A), and to do this at a location away from dwelling station in a brand new terrain for us is a superb train coaching alternative,” Metros mentioned.
The terrain in Alaska introduced a brand new problem for the pilots and loadmasters to sort out. The mountains and valleys present various kinds of coaching eventualities and there are extra areas to coach in.
“The coaching up right here is dynamic,” Metros mentioned. “We primarily deployed an entire package deal of parents from throughout the 403rd Wing, from the thirty sixth Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, our upkeep group, to our assist workers; to return practice in an space that’s exterior of their consolation zone and their regular operations.”
One other main distinction for the 815th AS was the Military’s restricted vary space in Alaska; it is a particular air house reserved only for the army to make use of, which the 815th AS doesn’t have accessible to them in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“Having this special-use airspace that we will fly into and we’re the one customers, makes conducting coaching operations simpler and permits us to perform extra coaching alternatives,” Metros mentioned. “We’re capable of fly into it to drop the heavy gear, do airdrop operations and do landing-zone operations with out worrying about somebody coming into our airspace.”
A part of these airdrop operations included personnel drops.
Military Lt. Col. Justin Pritchard, sixth Brigade Engineer Battalion (Airborne) commander, mentioned that his battalion participated within the personnel drops, deploying about 450 parachutes.
“Frankly, having the 815th (AS) right here has helped with our proficiency,” Pritchard mentioned. “I used to be capable of bounce my assault command submit twice this week and all of my corporations have been capable of conduct a tactical meeting. And for us repetition tremendously improves our proficiency, so it has been nice in that regard.”
Pritchard mentioned they don’t get that many C-130 jumps up right here, principally C-17 Globemaster III’s, and generally they’re restricted to both one bounce a month or each different month.
“This week has been a great week,” he mentioned. “I’ve had not less than half of my Troopers bounce twice, whereas the others jumped not less than as soon as.”
Having accomplished a bounce Wednesday after which coming again once more to conduct a second bounce Friday, Pritchard mentioned having two airborne operations on totally different days allowed them to see how they improved all through the week.
“Friday was a lot better with preparation in working with the Air Power particularly,” Pritchard mentioned. “So far as interoperability between us, and ensuring we’re saying the identical issues, by understanding one another’s phrases, I may see that we have been extra organized than we have been on Wednesday.”
Pritchard’s battalion additionally offered the heavy drops for flights on July 15.
Whereas the Flying Jennies routinely load heavy gear, conduct fight off-loads, and even do some heavy drops throughout their regular home-station coaching, they don’t typically get the chance to drop heavy gear.
“We don’t essentially get to do heavy gear airdrops like this, we frequently load Humvees up fairly a bit at dwelling,” mentioned Capt. Leesa Froelich, 815th AS pilot and the coaching train deputy mission commander. “However we don’t usually get to drop the Humvees, and having the ability to airdrop them on the parachutes is totally different and nice coaching for us.”
In the course of the coaching train, they airdropped greater than 30,000 kilos of kit, one thing they wouldn’t have the ability to do again at dwelling, mentioned Grasp Sgt. Jonathan Parker, 815th AS loadmaster and the train Joint Airborne/Air Transportability Coaching noncommissioned officer in cost.
One other problem they confronted was the assault touchdown zone in Alaska, which is totally totally different from the grime assault strips they usually use.
“Assault strips differ wherever you go and doing the assault landings right here on the rock floor was totally different,” Froelich mentioned. “This terrain introduced one other kind of problem as a result of we needed to guarantee that we didn’t use an excessive amount of reverse to maintain the rocks from going into the props and inflicting harm.”
The pilots and loadmasters additionally accomplished one other coaching goal: low-level tactical flying.
Any such flying is used to offer an efficient tactic in coaching for hostile environments, however the terrain in southern Mississippi tends to be over flat, wooded areas or over wetland areas.
“Alaska offered the chance for us to expertise low-level flight coaching by way of a difficult mountainous terrain,” mentioned Capt. Michael Plash, 815th AS pilot. “The terrain, plane efficiency, crew fatigue, airspace atmosphere and climate, have been all concerns our crews needed to account for.”
The Jennies are used to coping with the new, humid Mississippi climate. This train gave them one other problem of getting to take care of the dry, cool mountain air of Alaska.
“We want to see the 815th AS come again, particularly within the winter time too,” Pritchard mentioned. “As a result of the extra typically we will bounce, the readier we can be as a way to assist any combatant commander worldwide when requested to leap in and seize an airfield, and obtain any missions they provide us.”
Based on Lt. Col. Matthew Sikkink, 815th AS commander, the winter months could be just a little tougher as a result of these planes don’t usually function within the Arctic atmosphere.
“The winter months could be a problem that we’d not move up,” Sikkink mentioned. “As a result of with extra coaching and early preparation for the Arctic atmosphere, each for the crews and the planes, I believe we may positively overcome that problem. It will simply must be on a smaller scale for the primary one.”
In simply 4 days of flying, the Flying Jennies accomplished many coaching targets of greater than 15 assault landings and roughly eight hours of low-level tactical flying hours. Plus the mutual coaching of personnel and heavy gear drops the Military wanted.
“It is a nice relationship that we now have constructed with the 4/twenty fifth IBCT (A) and I believe we now have a brilliant future with them. They have been capable of present us, a Reserve squadron, with particular forms of assist that we will’t get in our native coaching space,” Sikkink mentioned.
“I believe total this coaching train was a convincing success and we’d wish to attempt to come again subsequent yr.”