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Mobility Airmen remain committed to Army’s airborne mission

U.S. Army members from the 82nd Airborne Division load onto a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, W.A., during Battalion Mass-Tactical week at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., July 12, 2016. During mass-tactical week the Army and Air Force units work together to improve interoperability for worldwide crisis, contingency and humanitarian operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sandra Welch)

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division load onto a C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during battalion mass tactical week at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., July 12, 2016. During the exercise, Army and Air Force units worked together to improve interoperability for worldwide crisis, contingency and humanitarian operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Sandra Welch)

U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III members from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, W.A., and U.S. Army members from the 82nd Airborne Division conduct a pre-mission brief before conducting static line drops on Sicily Drop Zone during Battalion Mass-Tactical week at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., July 12, 2016. During mass-tactical week the Army and Air Force units work together to improve interoperability for worldwide crisis, contingency and humanitarian operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sandra Welch)

Airmen from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division conduct a pre-mission brief inside of a C-17 Globemaster III before conducting static line drops on Sicily Drop Zone during the battalion mass tactical week at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., July 12, 2016. During the exercise, Army and Air Force units worked together to improve interoperability for worldwide crisis, contingency and humanitarian operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Sandra Welch)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Donovan Eliopulos, 7th Airlift Squadron, briefs U.S. Army members from the 82nd Airborne Divison egress procedures on a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, W.A., during Battalion Mass-Tactical week at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., July 12, 2016. During mass-tactical week the Army and Air Force units work together to improve interoperability for worldwide crisis, contingency and humanitarian operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sandra Welch)

Air Force Staff Sgt. Donovan Eliopulos, of the 7th Airlift Squadron, briefs Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Divison on egress procedures aboard a C-17 Globemaster III from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., during battalion mass tactical week at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., July 12, 2016. During the exercise, Army and Air Force units worked together to improve interoperability for worldwide crisis, contingency and humanitarian operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Sandra Welch)

Members of the 82nd Airborne Division leap from a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft during a mass tactical parachute jump onto Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 12, 2016. During mass-tactical week the Army and Air Force units work together to improve interoperability for worldwide crisis, contingency and humanitarian. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka Engblom)

Members of the 82nd Airborne Division jump from a C-17 Globemaster III during a mass tactical parachute jump onto Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 12, 2016. During the battalion mass tactical week, Army and Air Force units worked together to improve interoperability for worldwide crisis, contingency and humanitarian operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ericka Engblom)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- Air Mobility Command aircrews participated in the 82nd Airborne Division’s battalion mass tactical week at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from July 11-15.

The joint readiness exercise, also referred to as Mass Tac, illustrated the mobility air force’s ongoing commitment to support the Army and airborne training requirements at Fort Bragg.

During the exercise, Army paratroopers executed mass tactical parachute jumps from C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. This gave both Army and Air Force units the chance to practice large-scale airdrop missions for personnel and equipment. It also provided an opportunity to enhance interoperability for worldwide crisis, contingency and humanitarian response missions.

For AMC’s aircrews, the week focused on providing efficient and productive training for all Army and Air Force personnel involved, said Lt. Col. William McDonald, who served as mission commander for the exercise.

In total, six AMC aircraft flying in three-ship formations made roughly 96 passes over Fort Bragg’s Sicily Drop Zone, airdropping over 4,700 paratroopers, six howitzer artillery combos, two Humvees and several other pieces of heavy equipment and cargo, McDonald said.

“We had double the number of aircrews normally used for this type of exercise.” McDonald said. “This highlights our commitment to the 82nd Airborne and their mission.”

“We usually only bring one crew per aircraft,” he explained. “For this exercise we brought two crews per aircraft, which allowed us to offer an additional three lifts and 1,377 jumpers per day.”

While AMC conducts airdrop exercises each month, this iteration was unique as participants of Mass Tac were thrown a curveball that required them to rapidly shift their focus to an emergency deployment readiness exercise.

“We are doing some type of airdrop exercise every month,” McDonald said. “However, this is the first time we have rolled a (battalion mass tactical week) into an (emergency deployment readiness exercise) in order to test our ability to plan and the Army’s ability to support a large exercise inside of 96 hours.”

Planning for the emergency deployment readiness exercise began July 12 while Mass Tac was still underway, and aircraft began launching on July 16, said Lt. Col. Ben Russo, the 18th Air Force deputy chief of combat operations.

The transition was significant because it doubled the teams’ work and required them to plan a larger exercise while still running another, which is no easy feat according to McDonald.

“There is a lot of training that takes place in the mission planning cell,” he said. “These folks start planning the exercise days before the crews arrive. It is a great change for them to work with the Army and gain a greater understanding of how we, as MAF Airmen, fit into the bigger operational picture.”

The merging of the two exercises provided a wealth of experience for teams in the mission planning cell and aircrews alike, but the relationship building is the most important aspect from McDonald’s perspective.

“The biggest thing is that it helps us make connections with people we will be working with for a real-world event,” he said. “Having those contacts to reach out to makes a huge difference.

“Learning how the other services think and communicate really helps us understand what’s important for their mission and ensures that we provide the best support available,” McDonald continued.

Each of these exercises represented a touchstone for Air Mobility Command. By training as a cohesively integrated global response force, mobility forces are better prepared to provide combatant commanders with the critical options necessary to respond to rapidly evolving international crises.

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