Charleston Reservists provide tactical airlift at Saber Junction 16
By Michael Dukes, 315th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 19, 2016
JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. --
Three Reserve aircrews from the 315th Airlift Wing flying two Charleston C-17 Globemaster IIIs provided airlift support to paratroopers and their heavy equipment at Saber Junction 16 in Europe earlier this month.
Airlift was a joint mission provided by multiple C-17s and C-130 Hercules aircraft from various Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units flying paratroopers and cargo.
Charleston aircrews included pilots and loadmasters from the 300th Airlift Squadron, 317th AS and 701st AS as well as flying crew chiefs from the 315th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
"Mobility Air Forces are fully capable of conducting joint, combined operations across the full spectrum of conventional, unconventional and hybrid warfare," said Lt. Col. Stephen Hodge, 317th AS pilot. "Exercises such as Saber Junction are great opportunities for our mobility team -- from planners to aerial porters to aircrews -- to demonstrate this capability."
The Charleston Reservists flew to Aviano Air Base, Italy where they conducted static load training with members of the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Army to help familiarize the Soldiers with the C-17, and they joined the Army in a large hangar for a Rehearsal of Concept drill where they walked through the airlift sorties over the training area which was represented by taped off areas of the floor.
The biggest takeaway from participating in the exercise was, “The ability to deploy a small group to execute the Army’s mission in Europe while integrating with C-130s,” said Maj. Mike Parker, 701st AS pilot. “It was a great experience.”
The C-17s delivered paratroopers, heavy cargo (including HUMVEEs, large 155mm howitzers and other equipment) and “door dropped” pallets of MREs over a training drop zone in southeastern Germany.
Tech Sgt. John McNiece, 701st AS loadmaster, worked as the ramp control loadmaster for the exercise on the ground in Italy. His job was to coordinate everything for the C-17s with all the involved agencies.
McNiece said participating in exercises like Saber Junction is particularly valuable to loadmasters because it reinforces everything they do in training back in Charleston and at North Auxiliary Field. "In Charleston we do pretty standard training as loadmasters, so whenever we have the opportunity to airlift war fighters and their equipment in an overseas setting like this, it's a testament to our training when we are able roll with the changes and challenges that come up and exceed the expectations of our customers -- in this case the 173rd Airborne Brigade."
The U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade hosted the exercise which focused on large, multi-national airborne jumps and heavy equipment drops on multiple landing zones. Each coordinated effort allows the partners to connect -- personally, professionally, technically and tactically -- to build stronger, more capable forces.
Nearly 5,000 service members from 16 NATO and European partner nations participated in the month-long exercise, Saber Junction 16, held at the U.S. Army Europe's Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, which evaluated and certified the mission readiness of the 173rd to conduct land operations in a joint combined environment and to promote interoperability with Allied and partner nations.
The exercise is the U.S. Army Europe's 173rd Airborne Brigade's combat training event to certify their mission to conduct unified land operations. The training is executed in a multinational environment to promote interoperability with the nearly 5,000 participants from NATO and European partner nations.
(Airman 1st Class Cary Smith, 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs contributed to this story.)