Reserve wing, Army unit join forces at Red Flag-Alaska

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jared Marquis
  • 3rd Wing Public Affairs

The Air Force Reserve Command's 934th Airlift Wing, lead wing for the Elmendorf component of Red Flag-Alaska 06-2, is working with the Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, to ensure both units receive the training they need.

The coordination began about nine months ago when Lt. Col. Don Petros, Red Flag-Alaska project officer for the 934th AW, asked about participating in the exercise, formerly known as Cope Thunder.

"When I called to get the details, someone suggested calling the Army to see if they could use our support," he said.

The Army was more than happy to put the C-130 Hercules crewmembers to work. The 4-25th ABCT, recently stood up in Alaska, expects to deploy later this year. Before deploying though, the Army needed to give the Soldiers some much-needed field training, said Chuck Canterbury, an Army Public Affairs spokesperson for the exercise.

"This is the largest field training exercise we have conducted in a number of years and is really the only opportunity they are going to get to train as a brigade in-state," Mr. Canterbury said.

Having a unit dedicated to airlift support will be beneficial to the Soldiers when they deploy, he said.

"The bottom line is that they are airborne Soldiers, not 'straight leg' infantry. When they are transported to their deployed location, they will be inserted by air. It is important for them to train how they fight," he said.

That was part of what the C-130s were able to do for them when the exercise kicked off.

"We spent (April 24 to 26) doing personnel air drops," Colonel Petros said. "Of the approximately 3,500 Soldiers delivered to Allen Army Air Field (in Alaska), we transported about a 1,000. More than half of those were able to parachute in."

They would have liked to air-drop all of them, but when the wind wouldn’t cooperate, they canceled the drop and did engine-running offloads, the colonel said.

"Engine-running offloads consist of landing and lowering the cargo ramp so the Soldiers can get out. It is a lot faster and the crew is able to get out in a hurry if they come under attack," he said.

In addition to transporting the soldiers, the C-130 crews are responsible for re-supplying them.

"They say we deliver the beans and bullets, and it’s actually true," Colonel Petros said. This was evident when crews air-dropped 12 container delivery system bundles with Meals, Ready to Eat and other supplies April 26 to 28, followed by ammunition May 1 to 3.

In addition to helping the Army train they way they fight, the C-130 crews are obtaining valuable experience for their own deployments.

"We would be here participating in Red Flag even if we weren’t tasked to the Army," the colonel said. "But in that case, we would only be doing training loads."

The C-130 crewmembers are getting a year’s worth of training in two weeks, Colonel Petros said. They also get opportunities they might not get in a deployed environment.

"It is rare for an individual crewmember to get the chance to drop a howitzer like the one we delivered the other day," he said.