By Senior Airman Mercedes Taylor
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Little Rock Air Force Base partnered with the 82nd Airborne Division for a Joint Operational Access Exercise Sept. 27 through Oct. 3 at Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina.
Although much of the focus of the joint exercise was on the multiple jumps and follow-on ground operations, the main objective is to validate the 82nd AD’s ability to conduct a joint forcible entry which is a real-world response of inserting an airborne task force brigade or larger unit into an area and be used as defense for the United States.
During the first week, the 41st and 61st Airlift Squadrons, the 62nd Airlift Wing flew together in an eight-ship formation of five C-130J Hercules and three C-17 Globemaster IIIs. During these formation flights, members of 82nd AD will conduct multiple proficiency jumps.
The 317th Airlift Group from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, will join the last night of the exercise and contribute a C-130 to create a nine-ship formation. Together, the aircraft will insert 627 paratroopers and their equipment over Alexandria, Louisiana, for follow-on ground operations maneuvers and training.
The complexity of this exercise allows members from the 19th AW the opportunity to practice coordinating air operations and conduct airdrop training.
“The experience we get participating in the JOAX is invaluable,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Ryan Wells, lead Air Force JOAX coordinator. “It gives us the opportunity to further hone our mission planning skills, our communication skills with the Army and our airlift skills.”
Maintainers from the 19th Maintenance Group played a vital role in the JOAX as they were able to fix, maintain and prepare aircraft to successfully launch and conduct air operations. In addition to providing this essential maintenance for the fleet, approximately 40 aircraft maintainers also received valuable training.
“Being involved in JOAX and other exercises like this allows our maintainers more chances to prepare for deployment taskings while maintaining personnel readiness,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Scott Yancey, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer. “It’s always better when we’re on the road and having to put our training into realistic practice as opposed to continually training to one standard while at home station.”
Exercises such as JOAX allow the two 19th AW flying squadrons to plan and coordinate air operations support for complex joint endeavors, which both strengthens the relations between the Air Force and Army as well as creates a larger knowledge base in order to quickly and concisely react to real-world threats.
“This is something we don’t get to practice very often, especially the interoperability between us and the Army,” Wells said. “The more we practice, the more experience we have to ensure we’re conducting exercises as efficiently as possible for a higher success rate. For real-world responses, we have zero room for error.”