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AF Reserve airlift squadron plays part in Saber Junction 16

Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Italian Folgore Brigade and U.K.’s 16th Air Assault Brigade conduct airborne operations on the Maneuver Rights Area near Hohenfels, Germany during exercise Saber Junction 16, April 12, 2016.The Air Force Reserve's 815th Airlift Squadron, based at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, participated in the exercise, which assessed the readiness of the U.S. Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade to conduct land operations in a joint, combined environment and to promote interoperability with participating Allied and partner nations. Countries participating in the exercise include Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. (U.S. Army photo/Gertrud Zach)

Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Italian Folgore Brigade and U.K.’s 16th Air Assault Brigade conduct airborne operations on the Maneuver Rights Area near Hohenfels, Germany, during exercise Saber Junction 16, April 12, 2016. The Air Force Reserve's 815th Airlift Squadron, based at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., participated in the exercise, which assessed the readiness of the U.S. Army's 173rd AB to conduct land operations in a joint, combined environment and to promote interoperability with allied and partner nations. (U.S. Army photo/Gertrud Zach)

An 815th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules and other C-130s filled with soldiers from the U.S. Army 173rd Airborne Brigade line up at Aviano Air Base, Italy, to depart for Saber Junction 16, April 12, 2016. Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade were off to Hohenfels, Germany for a combined operation with participating Allied and partner nations. (U.S. Army photo/Katie Currid)

An 815th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules and other C-130s filled with Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade line up at Aviano Air Base, Italy, to depart for Saber Junction 16, April 12, 2016. Paratroopers from the 173rd AB were off to Hohenfels, Germany, for a combined operation with allied and partner nations. (U.S. Army photo/Katie Currid)

Senior Airman Christopher Townsley, 403rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crewchief at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, marshalls in an 815th Airlift Squadron aircrew returning from Saber Junction 16, April 20, 2016. The exercise, which started March 31 and ends April 24, is the U.S. Army’s annual combat training center certification exercise to evaluate the readiness of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. The 815th AS participated in the training event April 5-20, 2016. (U.S. Air Force/Maj. Marnee Losurdo)

Senior Airman Christopher Townsley, a 403rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, marshalls in a C-130J Super Hercules on April 20, 2016. The aircrew aboard the C-130 was participating in exercise Saber Junction, which started March 31 and ends April 24. The exercise is the Army’s annual combat training center certification exercise to evaluate the readiness of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Marnee Losurdo)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- 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.”

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