Friday, May 26, 2017

TOP STORY >> USAF, Canadian forces partner for unique training

by Staff Sgt. Jeremy McGuffin, 
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs 

The 41st Airlift Squadron loaded up with crews from the 61st Airlift Squadron, the 34th Training Squadron, maintainers and equipment into two C-130Js for a week of training in Edmonton, Canada.

The Royal Canadian Air Force, along with the 3rd Princess Patricias Canadian Light Infantry, teamed up with the 19th Airlift Wing to participate in Canadian exercise Fanatic Pegasus which offered unique opportunities with our international partners and access to mountainous terrain and weather not found in Arkansas.

“The goal of participating in Fanatic Pegasus was to validate and build U.S. and Canada tactical airlift interoperability,” said Capt. Michael Sadler, 41st Airlift Squadron Director of Staff. “The expeditionary scenario was put in place to better prepare our forces for future combined operations.”

Little Rock Air Force Base squadrons routinely support operations all over the world. Participating in another countries exercise allowed the crews to have a whole new perspective in Combat Airlift.

“Even though we fly the same aircraft, there are a multitude of ways to employ this weapon system, and it was an incredible chance to see how our joint partners utilize the C-130J,” said 1st Lt. Alexander Randall, 41st Airlift Squadron C-130J Pilot. “They have experience pushing this weapon system to its limit in an environment we don’t get see too often. Flying together through the mountains while practicing airdrops was challenging, but rewarding; it cultivated a sense of confidence and respect in each country’s abilities, and the unique capabilities each of us can bring to the fight.”

The Canadians offered many unique challenges that expanded each of the 19th Airlift Wing’s crews skill set.  

“Each country has its own set of tactics, techniques and procedures,” Sadler said. “This exercise provided us with a unique opportunity to incorporate each other’s methods of employing the C-130J.  Additionally, it facilitated an opportunity to improve our interoperability with our Canadian partners, allowing us to evaluate and possibly incorporate each other’s methods in future operations.”

Despite challenges such as language barriers, weather delays and mission execution differences, the training was a success. 

“Initial difficulties included the pre-mission communication, such as approval of a Foreign Jumper waiver which required Air Mobility Command’s approval,” Sadler said. “We needed to work through a training plan with the RCAF to ensure each unit was getting the most out of the exercise and we were all on the same page.”

As the training continued through the week, all personnel involved gained a better understanding of each other’s mission effectiveness. 

“You can’t brief too much on the ground,” Randall said. “We found that while much of the terminology we used was the same, the execution varied slightly. The flights led to a great discussion of ideas and concepts that we can use to streamline interoperability in the future.”

The discussions that occurred throughout these unique exercises became invaluable and continuing to maintain a working rapport with Canadian forces is crucial to the success of future combined operations.

The aircrews performed low-level tactical flying, transported equipment and personnel while also navigating the Canadian Rockies.

“These opportunities can be rare,” Sadler said. “We need to ensure we’re taking advantage of and getting the most out of each event that allows us to interoperate with one of our strongest allies.”

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