403rd Wing participates in Exercise Southern Strike 2018

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens
  • 403rd Wing
Three units from the 403rd Wing took part in Southern Strike 2018, an annual joint exercise held along the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Oct. 20 to Nov. 3, 2017.

Members of the 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 815th Airlift Squadron and the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron each participated in various scenarios during this training mission.

According to Army Col. James Haynie, exercise director for Southern Strike 2018, this training is a large-scale, joint multinational combat exercise that provides tactical-level training for the full spectrum of conflict. It emphasizes air dominance, maritime operations, maritime air support, precision engagement, close air support, command and control, personnel recovery, aeromedical evacuation and combat medical support. Eighty military units from 33 states participated in the joint exercise.

“What we try to do here is replicate real-world activities that we perform on the conventional level as well as the special operations level. We encompass all components of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to include conventional Reserve and National Guard units,” said Haynie. “What we try to do here is perform the same functions that we’d perform overseas to better train and equip our forces so that when they deploy, they can be at the highest state of readiness that they can expect.”

Capt. Erika Seagle, 36th AES flight nurse; Capt. George Atiee, 36th AES medical service officer and Master Sgt. Kimelyn Hall, 36th AES aeromedical evacuation technician, integrated with Air National Guard and other aeromedical evacuation units from other U.S. military branches. Together they assisted with simulated care and transport of patients out of the exercise area, which included the Combat Readiness Training Center and Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, both in Gulfport, Mississippi. The 36th AES was also the only Air Force Reserve aeromedical evacuation squadron to participate in the exercise, said Seagle.

Seagle also noted these joint exercises provide an excellent opportunity for members of different aeromedical evacuation units to work together, since this kind of blending could easily take place in deployed environments.

“All of our crews are essentially practicing their primary function of receiving and transporting patients from one base to another for definitive care purposes,” said Seagle. “This is what we do while deployed – working with the Army and other units – so this is real-world training for us based on what we would do down range.”

The 815th AS and 53rd WRS flew sorties out of Keesler Air Force Base to simulate the type of inner-theater airlift support they would provide real-world to the director of the mobility forces in the area of operation, such as troop and equipment transport as well as airdrop missions, said Lt. Col. Tim Weiher, 815th AS assistant director of operations. Specifically for Southern Strike 2018, the two squadrons assisted with aeromedical evacuations.

Weiher spoke to the importance of working together with other units from different military branches during this type of training.

“This exercise provides us an excellent opportunity to integrate with folks that we normally don’t get to interact with on a normal day-to-day training basis to practice how we plan missions and execute them in a joint environment,” said Weiher.