Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Joint LOADEX Ensures Operational Success

The Navy and Air Force came together during a training operation known as Load Exercise (LOADEX) at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., April 11-13, in an effort to increase interoperability during upcoming deployments.

Various units from the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) and two airlift squadrons from the 437th Airlift Wing from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., practiced loading and unloading equipment and vehicles from a C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane to test their deployment readiness.

Organizers said the exercise gave both services the opportunity to interact and train together in preparation for a real-world deployment.

"We don't get many opportunities to work with the Navy," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Timothy Manning, aerial port supervisor for 819th Global Support Squadron and lead inspector for C-17 LOADEX's joint inspection team. "The main benefit of this exercise is the hands-on experience for both the Air Force and Navy. It's interesting to load equipment we're not used to seeing, and giving NECC the chance to practice will speed things up when it gets time for them to deploy."

The Air Forces' 819th Global Support Squadron provided guidance during the exercise by showing the NECC units exactly what the Air Force looks for during official inspections.

"We're definitely learning what the Air Force requires of us such as what kind of documentation to have, how much things can weigh and what the loadmaster will be looking for," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Derric Hinson, a reservist attached to Navy Cargo Handling Battalion(NCHB) Four.

During the exercise, NECC units loaded and unloaded their "chalk," otherwise known as a unit, platoon or company, into the C-17. For this exercise, the plane held one chalk. The term came from the Vietnam War where helicopters were marked with chalk to show which parts were involved in an operation. An example chalk for LOADEX will consisted of one boat, one truck, and several pallets of equipment.

"It's good to learn how to properly weigh and mark a load so when it comes time to deploy we can get it on the aircraft quickly," said Builder 1st Class (EXW/SCW) James Wallace from Riverine Squadron One.

In order to make the training realistic, forces across the NECC enterprise participated, including: 1st Naval Construction Division, Maritime Expeditionary Security Forces, Riverine, Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group and Explosive Ordnance Disposal. This enabled a broad spectrum of the types of equipment and personnel within the expeditionary forces to take part in the exercise.

As one of the Navy's type commanders, NECC centrally manages the current and future readiness, resources, manning, training and equipping of approximately 40,000 expeditionary Sailors – including individual augmentees – who are currently serving in every theater of operation. Of those, approximately 50 percent are reservists. These capabilities include naval construction, dive and salvage, and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), which have been a part of the Navy for several decades. Not only did NECC bring some existing forces together, they also introduced and restructured new capabilities, such as maritime civil affairs, expeditionary intelligence and expeditionary training.