POPE ARMY AIRFIELD, N.C. — Airmen from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, along with Airmen from other Air Mobility Command units, participated in the Battalion Mass Tactical Week exercise at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., Feb. 27 to March 2.
The Airmen from McChord Field, along with Dyess Air Force Base, Texas; Joint Base Charleston, S.C.; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; and Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., comprised more than 100 Airmen who participated in the exercise to airdrop more than 2,400 Soldiers.
The exercise took place to provide hands-on training to AMC aircrews while supporting Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.
“Overall throughout the week we were able to accomplish quite a bit of training that goes a long way in things we are not necessarily able to accomplish at home-station,” said Lt. Col. Jaron Roux, 62nd Operations Support Squadron commander and the exercise air mission commander. “The interoperability that we gain when we bring the C-17 Globemaster III and C-130J crews together here is fantastic.”
During the exercise, aircrews received training in a variety of areas to include formation flying, airdrop, static-line jumps of Soldiers and the experience of working with Airmen from different units.
“This week, the primary training is for us to support the 82nd Airborne Division as well as supporting C-17 and C-130J upgrade training,” Roux said. “The 82nd is an airborne unit that’s postured to respond to different contingencies all over the globe and parachute operations is essential to their readiness.”
For some McChord Field Airmen, this was their first opportunity to airdrop Soldiers from the C-17.
“This was a great experience — I learned a lot,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Baez, 7th Airlift Squadron loadmaster from JBLM. “Seeing that this is a new qualification for me, I appreciate the opportunity to work with everyone here and receive this training in a realistic training environment.”
Aircrews flew day and night shifts each day of the exercise and flew in formations ranging from three-to-six aircraft. The exercise schedule stuck to a fixed time frame that required aircrews to airdrop personnel and cargo at specified drop zones that allowed only 30 to 50 seconds of a green light to make the drops.
Aircrews from McChord Field were provided a unique training opportunity during the exercise because it’s not often that they’re able to train in environments like these, Roux said.
“It really makes you appreciate all the mission planning that takes place prior to these exercises,” Baez said. “I had to be adaptable and ready to make any last-minute changes. There are countless hours that lead up to 30 seconds over the drop zone.”
Though only a week long, the exercise planning started at the beginning of the year by the 62nd OSS, according to Roux. Planning took into consideration the training needs of all aircrew and support personnel participating in the exercise.
“We bring the whole team out here to include maintenance personnel, weather professionals and squadron aviation resource management Airmen,” Roux said. “It’s a joint-training effort that happens throughout the week.”
Although Airmen faced some challenging weather during the week, the exercise was a success, Roux said.
“I think each time we come out here and do these exercises we learn things as an enterprise,” Roux said. “We learn if there are shortfalls we need to work on, but we also see things that we do very well and this week was no different.”