By Senior Airman Andrew Park, 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 20, 2016
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- The 94th Airlift Wing participated in Exercise Saber Junction 16 April 11-15 at Aviano Air Base, Italy.
Saber Junction is U.S. Army Europe's annual combat training center certification exercise designed to evaluate the readiness of one of its two combat brigades to conduct unified land operations (a simultaneous combination of offensive, defensive and stability missions), with an emphasis on tactical interoperability among allied and partner-nation forces. This year the exercise focused on the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Vincenza, Italy, and took place from March 31 - April 24.
"Saber Junction 16 is a huge endeavor and a chance for all participating nations to be involved in one of the largest jump exchange exercises ever," said U.S. Army Maj. Andrew Garcia, 173rd Brigade Support Battalion support operations officer. "This is a very impressive group of nations we've formed."
In addition to the 94th AW and 173rd BSB, Saber Junction 16 featured units from Albania, Armenia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom, as well as a variety of enabling units from the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
The wing supported the exercise from Aviano Air Base, Italy, with two C-130 Hercules that provided personnel air drop and air landings for the 173rd BSB.
Members of the wing also had the opportunity to work alongside their counterparts from other Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard wings, as well as active duty and NATO forces. This included flying in formation with multiple aircraft types, which promoted integration between the U.S. and all its allies, said Capt. Mike Terrell, 700th Airlift Squadron C-130 instructor pilot.
"Mobility air forces are fully capable of conducting joint, combined operations across the full spectrum of conventional, unconventional and hybrid warfare," said Col. Stephen Hodge, 317th Airlift Group commander from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. "Exercises such as Saber Junction are great opportunities for our mobility team -- from planners to aerial porters to aircrews -- to demonstrate this capability."
In real-world contingencies, all branches of the U.S. military, in addition to NATO forces, work together in a joint environment to perform the mission.
“It’s easy to say we’re allies with someone,” Terrell said. “But to actually operate with them and execute a mission together is a whole
"When you're at home, you're working with your own unit or your own crew, so you're very familiar with each other,” explained Capt. Jamie Atkinson, 700th Airlift Squadron C-130 pilot. “So when you get out here, you get to stretch your wings a little bit and work with different agencies, units, and branches. Working with the Army also gives us the opportunity to learn from each other and to better integrate our missions to operate more effectively."
Saber Junction aimed to create a training environment closely related to deployed settings.
“I’ve deployed numerous times, but there are a lot of guys here who haven’t, so this is their first time seeing how it actually works and to gain some experience,” said Terrell.
The exercise also benefitted Dobbins’ mission.
“Our director of operations ensures we are tactical aviators in a deployed environment so we can execute the mission and get back home,” Terrell said. “Dobbins, in particular, is excellent about training us to understand threats and mitigating them so that when we come up to the threat, we can engage in our threat reactions and necessary maneuvers to get back alive and get everyone home safely.”
Exercise Saber Junction and future training exercises provide opportunities for air crews and other Dobbins support personnel to continue honing their skills in preparation for future deployments.