U.S. Airmen, Soldiers practice interoperability during exercise

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Charles Casner
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – U.S. Airmen assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, participated in Battalion Mass Tactical Week at Pope Army Airfield, Jan. 30-Feb. 5. 

During mass-tactical week, U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force units worked together to improve interoperability for worldwide crisis, contingency and humanitarian operations. 

“The reason we do this exercise is joint partnership,'' said Maj. Courtney Vidt, 8th Airlift Squadron pilot. “Everything we do is based on what the Army needs for groundskeeper maneuvering. We get to do airdrop maneuvering, we get to try different tactics, techniques, and procedures, we get to drop personnel, heavy airdrop equipment and CDs, which is container delivery system equipment, and try different methods of doing that that we don't always get to try during a home session.” 

Mass Tactical Week involved three C-17 Globemaster IIIs assigned to McChord Field, four C-17s  assigned to Charleston, and Army Soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division and 37th Brigade Engineer Battalion, both at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“Working with the Army is actually a pretty cool experience,” Vidt said. “We mostly as the aircrew work with the jumpmasters, where the mission planning cell gets to work with some of the key leaders of the Army to figure out what they need on the ground and how they want their jumpers to land. That is how they actually dictate which jumpers go to which jet and our formation positions for it. The Army is actually a really cool opportunity because we don't always get to practice throwing people on the back.”

During the exercise, a total of eight flights were conducted by seven C-17 Globemaster IIIs. They airdropped 11 heavy equipment platforms and 30 CDS bundles, and practiced three semi-prepared operations landings, involving a total of 1,732 Air Force and Army personnel.

Airmen completed different training requirements with a focus on joint operations and interoperability for worldwide crises.

“We sometimes don't speak the same language, and we sometimes need different objectives,” Vidt said. “For example, where we needed certain airdrop positions to help with our upgrade and our own training, as well as different tactical scenarios to mirror real life, they just need us to throw people on the drop zone. Sometimes it's explaining to them, ‘Hey, this is our scenario. And in the real world, this is how we would actually get to the place that you need.’”

Battalion Mass Tactical Week started back in 2017 and is held approximately six times a year. It simulates real world operations, but in a controlled environment. A real-world situation involves being ready to go at a moment’s notice.

For Senior Airman Thomas Welsh, 8th AS loadmaster, he said he enjoyed participating in the BMTW exercise and working with the Soldiers. 

“I actually learned a lot,” he said. “There was some new stuff that I’ve never experienced. They were giving us a lot of equipment that I’ve never seen before, which made it challenging, but we have some pretty great instructors and they are always teaching me new stuff.”

BMTW challenged mission planners just as much as those going on the simulated missions. Regardless of the countless challenges such as weather, communication between the branches, and tight timelines, Soldiers and Airmen cooperated together to complete BMTW.

“Working with the Army has been great,” said Senior Airman Michael MacDougall, 8th AS loadmaster. “ We have developed the interoperability between the services and received great training on both sides.”

Simulated exercises like BMTW help to keep the joint tactics of Airmen and Soldiers abreast and knowledgeable. They can enhance members’ abilities by practicing scenarios in a controlled environment. The success of exercises like this makes it easier for the further success of joint exercises in the future.