Exercise Cope North provides real-world humanitarian assistance

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Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts are the key for Airmen involved with the multilateral exercise Cope North.

The Pacific Air Forces sponsored exercise includes members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian air force. The combined team helped deliver urgent food and commodities to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas on the island of Rota here, following months without their regular resupply by sea.

Relief supplies from the Guam Red Cross were moved to Andersen Air Force Base by truck and prepped for flight, then loaded aboard coalition aircraft by the 36th Contingency Response Group. Cargo, personnel and equipment were moved to Rota using tactical airlift from all of the countries participating in the Cope North exercise. All personnel and equipment were then airlifted back to Guam.

The process was initiated after the governor of Rota declared a state of emergency and requested assistance from the Department of Defense.

After coordination with Joint Region Marianas, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces and the Department of Homeland Security, the 36th Wing on Andersen AFB, along with the Cope North exercise planners, expanded the exercise scenario to include humanitarian assistance for Rota.

For some of the airmen from these countries it may have seemed like déjà vu.

In November, Andersen AFB's 36th CRG operated out of Tacloban and Clark airfields in the Philippines while coalition C-130 Hercules from Yokota Air Base's 36th Airlift Squadron, the RAAF and the JASDF were all delivering relief supplies to the typhoon-stricken area.

"The shift from exercise scenario to Rota emergency relief was seamless," said Col. Thomas Livingston, the 36th CRG commander. "We built an outstanding working relationship throughout the Operation Damayan relief effort, and exercises like Cope North reinforce the 'muscle memory' of how each nation operates and the best way to dovetail capabilities into a complete relief package. The coordination between the aircrew and the ground teams was phenomenal."

The Cope North exercise director for U.S. forces, Col. John Parker, noted the framework built by the participating nations allowed the teams to incorporate the new mission into the exercise on-the-fly.

"The (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) portion of Cope North enhances regional capabilities to respond to crises and lays the foundation for the expansion of regional cooperation in the face of real world contingencies," said Parker, who is also the 35th Operations Group commander at Misawa Air Base, Japan. "The people of Rota expressed a need and we were able to join forces and rapidly and successfully meet that need.

"It speaks volumes about our teamwork and partnership among the exercise participants to successfully execute (our) mission under the overall exercise scenario," Parker said.

The coalition air forces were also joined by the Navy's Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 on Andersen AFB. HSC-25 provided vertical insertion of teams into the Northern Marianas and the pickup of a simulated downed airman during the search and rescue scenario.

The Rota relief effort came on the last day of the five day training event. The coalition teams practiced crisis action planning, emergency deployment readiness, airfield assessments, aeromedical evacuations, resupply airdrops, search and rescue and hub-and-spoke air-land relief efforts.

(Courtesy of Pacific Air Forces public affairs)