Teamwork, airlift keys to success of exercise in Gabon

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Timothy Chacon
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Delivering a global response force (GRF) is something the Airmen of the 62nd Airlift Wing practice regularly, but, up until now, that response force has never been brought to the African continent like it was for exercise Central Accord 2016.

Nearly 1,000 participants from 14 countries participated in a command post and field exercise on the western coast of Africa that replicated a peacekeeping scenario in the Central African Republic June 10-24.

The exercise focused on combined arms maneuvering during peacetime operations and aimed to increase medical logistical capacity through aeromedical evacuation and field medical support.

The 62nd AW’s role was to transport paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, France and Gabon to the exercise drop zones. The 82nd AD Soldiers were picked up from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and were flown across the Atlantic, stopping in Senegal, Africa, to refuel and swap out aircrews that were pre-positioned to ensure continuous movements of the aircraft.

“Our participation in Central Accord really showed our joint capability with the 82nd Airborne Division and our ability to deploy forces from the states to support any kind of operations,” said Lt. Col. Brian Smith, the 62nd AW Central Accord mission commander. “We demonstrated our ability to rapidly deploy a GRF anywhere in the world. We departed Pope (Field, North Carolina,) and 17 hours later we were able to deliver the 82nd to their objective, on time.”

In total, the 62nd AW airdropped 294 paratroopers -- 134 82nd AD, 109 Gabonese and 51 French paratroopers. Along with participating in the airdrops with jumpers, the 82nd also acted in an advisory and instructor role for the French and Gabonese jumpers, providing jump masters and safeties on each flight and pass.

“During three days of airdrops, our (Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington,) C-17 (Globemaster IIIs) were able to precisely drop all troops on target, on time and with zero injuries,” Smith said. “This allows the ground forces commanders to have exactly what they need to meet their follow-on objectives.”

According to JB McChord aircrews, airdrop operations are complex operations. There are many moving parts and many contributing factors to a successful drop. The 62nd AW and the 82nd AD have developed a familiarity with each other’s needs and operating procedures, making these types of operations run smoothly. Adding new and foreign jumpers can make things more difficult, but not always.

“We work with the 82nd (AD) quite often. We are very constant supporters to their operations,” said Capt. Matt Hall, the 62nd AW Central Accord mission planner, “I will never forget (airdropping) the Gabonese jumpers. They were very professional and motivated. I was very impressed with how the 82nd trained the foreign jumpers. There was no lack of professionalism. This exercise had the best Army leadership at the tactical level I have seen.”

The precision and flying of the aircraft is an important part of the mission, but if the aircraft can’t get airborne, none of that is possible.

“The 62nd Maintenance Group provided us with two outstanding aircraft that operated flawlessly throughout the week,” Smith said. “The two crew chiefs that the 62nd MXG sent provided excellent support on the ground to ensure the (aircraft) were always ready to fly.

“The crews performed exceptionally well. The combination of operations and maintenance personnel working together is what made this team succeed.”