AF Reserve airlift squadron plays part in Saber Junction 16

  • Published
  • By Maj. Marnee A.C. Losurdo
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force Reserve’s 815th Airlift Squadron returned here April 20 after participating in the U.S. Army Europe’s Saber Junction 16 exercise since April 5.

Two crews from the 815th AS showcased the C-130J Super Hercules’ airdrop and air-land insertion capability by airdropping 112 of the 3,095 paratroopers and providing 60 of the 200 short tons delivered during the exercise. While Saber Junction took place in Germany, the 815th AS along with air assets from other nations as well as various Air Force active-component, Reserve and Air National Guard units were staged at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

The annual exercise tests the readiness of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and this year it included the largest airdrop of personnel in Europe since World War II, said Lt. Col. Stephanie Brown, an 815th AS aircraft commander.

“Saber Junction is a large-scale exercise to demonstrate the 173rd’s combat capability and interoperability,” Brown said. “Our piece of this was to provide airlift to their paratroopers and to also do tactical insertion of their ground equipment onto a small STOL, or short takeoff and landing field.”

For the first portion of the exercise, Brown and her crew airdropped the 173rd AB commander and 55 Soldiers who were the logistics specialists to handle and protect the ground assets being air dropped, she said.

Maj. Jeff Smith, another aircraft commander, and his crew took part in a five-ship formation of C-130Js, which included an aircraft from Britain.

“We … made several passes dropping personnel,” he said. “It was awesome to see this mass insertion of troops.”

The last three days included tactical insertion, Brown said. Aircrews delivered heavy equipment to include five Humvees, three mortar carts and an additional 40 personnel.

“We landed on dirt strip in the middle of nowhere,” Brown said. “It was this tiny 3,000-foot strip surrounded by trees. We would off load as quickly as possible and take off again.”

Smith added that landing on the rough gravel runway with heavy loads of equipment was a challenge, but one the crews excelled at.

“The loadmasters did an outstanding job in off-loading aircraft really fast,” he said. “We were wheels down, wheels up … in about 12 minutes. It was well executed.”

An H-model C-130 is limited to hauling about 30,000 pounds of equipment whereas the newer J-model the 815th AS fly brought in loads as heavy as 47,000 pounds.

“We can bring in more, and we can do it faster because of our times in route. And, it’s a lot safer from a combat perspective, because we can get off the ground faster,” Brown said. “There is a great deal of capability in what the 815th (AS) can bring to the fight.”

Reflecting on their training over the last couple of weeks, Brown and Smith said they were honored to take part in such a large-scale training event.

“To be part of something that magnanimous was amazing,” Brown said. “The Army put forth a lot of equipment and personnel and obviously dedication to enable this to happen. And then, of course, 21 aircraft from 10 different active, Reserve and Air National Guard units were key to the success of providing the Army the force and the supplies they needed.”