Saturday, June 02, 2012

Airmen, Soldiers complete Mobility Forces Exercise

by Staff Sgt. Ciara Wymbs, 23rd Wing Public Affairs

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- Army green and Air Force blue combined to deliver the successful completion of the Mobility Forces Exercise 12A, which took place May 21 through 24 here and at the nearby Nevada Test and Training Range in Tonopah, Nev.

MAFEX goals included building relationships between Air Force and Army units; allowing the participating units to learn each other's capabilities and limitations; and rehearsing joint tactics, techniques and procedures in preparation for real-world execution.

"This exercise pieces together all components of the Air Force needed to integrate with Army units to guarantee entry into the battlefield at any time," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Wald, the 57th Weapons Squadron commander and MAFEX 12A air boss. "We got together and tried to bring the best of each of our different tactical platforms and planners in one room to teach each other how we operate and how we could best employ Air Force assets to help the war fighter."

Wald said mobility pilots and aircrews from across the continental United States were mobilized in an effort to assemble and offload the substantial number of Army forces and equipment needed to conduct forcible entry operations to complete the mission. More than 100 aircraft from across the Air Force participated in MAFEX, including the KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130H and J Hercules, A-10 Thunder Bolt II and C-17 Globemaster III. In addition, Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, Airmen from the 820th RED HORSE Squadron, and Soldiers from a long-range surveillance unit and a secure en route communications package also participated in the exercise.

The 317th Airlift Group supported MAFEX with five of its own C-130Js and 33 personnel from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. The C-130J's simulated mission was a strategic brigade airdrop of army personnel in a contested and degraded environment.

"This type of drop places the Army in hostile enemy territory and allows them to expand the lodgment for future follow on missions," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Nicholas Redenius, of the 317th AG. "Think of it like the movie, 'We Were Soldiers.' We drop the guys in and they fight to expand their area of control, and then we land at a (landing zone), dropping off more soldiers."

Airmen from the 317th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron out of Dyess AFB also were on hand to support MAFEX.

"Our role was to ensure the aircraft were ready to fly for the MAFEX exercise," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Montes, of the 317th AMXS. "When we landed, two of the aircraft were broken and we were able to troubleshoot, order parts and fix both aircraft without delaying their flights."

Not only is MAFEX a capstone project for the weapons school students, it also gives the Air Force mobility community a chance to come together and learn from each other.

"It was a blast to see how everyone can come together," said Airman 1st Class Rocky Menard, 40th Airlift Squadron. "We went out there with five crews from the fortieth, but we also got to be with a lot of people from Little Rock and Ramstein, to meet them and talk to them was interesting, and to get some insight about what they do at their bases and what's going on outside of Dyess Air Force Base."

Besides the Airmen from Dyess AFB, the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing took part in MAFEX to test their ability to link Air Force mobility assets with sister service ground capabilities to ensure joint entry into a combat zone. The 93rd AGOW's 18th Air Support Operations Group, out of Fort Bragg, N.C., helped bring the Army and Air Force together.

"The 18th Air Support Operations Group joint terminal attack controllers were a wonderful translator between the needs of the Army, and capabilities and capacities of the Air Force," Wald said.

In order to manage a clear path for 70 mobility aircraft, JTACs were on hand to provide a link for successful delivery of paratroopers and equipment.

"My job is to monitor the airspace for threats to aircraft," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris Wheeler, an 18th ASOG JTAC. "Any type of damage or loss of any aircraft downrange is catastrophic."

"To have that mouthpiece that understands the air work but also understands the ground force commander's intent was instrumental," said Wald. "The work after initial delivery couldn't have been done without the ASOG."

The exercise, which takes place twice each year, is part of a six-month weapons instructor course conducted by the U.S. Air Force Weapons School here. After graduating, weapons school students become weapons officers, serving as expert advisors to military leaders on the use of Air Force and sister service's capabilities in concert.