A month of joint planning between Air Force and Army units paid off when Airmen from the 62nd Airlift Wing and Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment came together Nov. 4 and 5 to carry out Operation Guy Fawkes, a HIMARS live fire simulation exercise.
During the two-day exercise, four C-17 Globemaster III aircraft departed McChord Field, carrying a total of seven HIMARS vehicles and approximately 100 personnel, and traveled to three airfields in the western United States. Once the C-17s were on the ground at those airfields, teams scrambled to offload the HIMARS vehicles, perform the firing simulation, and quickly reload the vehicles back on the aircraft to head back home.
The airfields used in the exercise Moses Lake, Wash., Yakima, Wash., and Schoonover, Calif. allowed the crews to train in a variety of conditions, to include landing on a semi-prepared, dirt runway. The exercise also included both daytime and nighttime operations.
Though the Air Force and Army have their own unique mission capabilities, the exercise demonstrated that jointly, those capacities bring JBLMs warfighting abilities to a whole new level.
This exercise is a phenomenal opportunity for our unit to train with the Air Force, said 1st Lt. Shannon McDonnell, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery, HIMARS fire direction officer. Being able to bring two branches of service together, each with their own unique capabilities is something that will both benefit and support Airmen and Soldiers in future missions worldwide.
One objective of the operation was to broaden JBLMs joint planning abilities, and to open the door for future coordination between the services.
Operationally, we would like to take a step toward executing the full spectrum of C-17 operations with an emphasis on command and control during wartime operations, said Capt. Paul Tucker, 7th Airlift Squadron exercise lead. Tactically, we would like to expose the crews to operational objectives they may never have experienced, while sharpening the skills they already practice on a regular basis.
For some of the exercise participants, working with unfamiliar weapons systems presented unique challenges.
You wont always have publications stating how to tie down every piece of equipment C-17s are capable of transporting, said Senior Airman Ashton Taylor, 7th AS loadmaster. It comes down to the fundamentals of our job that we learn in tech school. Fundamentals are a good foundation for success.
The ability to practice those fundamentals in unfamiliar settings and with unfamiliar equipment is one of the benefits of joint training.
Having HIMARS crews working with the Air Force benefits the joint operations for JBLM, said Spc. Hunter Campbell, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery, HIMARS driver. I think everyone within my unit needs to have the opportunity to train with the Air Force.
The exercise was the second joint HIMARS exercise performed this year by JBLM Soldiers and Airmen. Planning for future joint exercises has already begun.