“You guys seem to have an advance on people; you can specialize into key parts.”
Leading Aircraftman Solomon Campbell
36th Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force
Joint Base Lewis-McChord is no stranger to hosting exercises in joint collaboration with Army and Air Force working side-by-side, but the 2017 Mobility Guardian exercise took that approach and made it international.
More than 3,000 service members representing 25 different countries started the large-scale joint exercise July 31 at JBLM. It’s scheduled to end Saturday.
Replacing the Air Mobility Command’s Rodeo event, Mobility Guardian was designed to improve and test skills through simulated threat scenarios.
“The focus is on the combat air forces,” said Col. Clinton Zumbrennen, the 305th Operations Group commander, out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. “How do you execute on a full spectrum?”
Service members participating in Mobility Guardian test their efficiency and execution of several core competencies. Training scenarios were based around gauging abilities in aeromedical evacuation, air refueling, strategic and tactical airlifts and formation airdrops.
The training also included trips to central and eastern Washington locations like Yakima Training Center and Fairchild Air Force Base, in Spokane. The C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that reside on McChord Field were utilized throughout the event, along with a number of other aircraft seen in conflicts like the current war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
In addition to gauging skill levels among service members, the large-scale exercise also proved how U.S. service members and equipment are interoperable with other countries. For example, the groups tested a U.S. parachute on a container delivery system for the Royal Australian Air Force, which was dropped by a CC-130J Hercules by the Royal Canadian Air Force.
“In exercising how interoperable we are; can we do the things we say we can do?” Zumbrennen said.
It was a chance for people from different countries to learn from others who use similar equipment. For example, the Royal Australian Air Force also uses C-17 Globemaster III aircraft like the ones on JBLM.
It was easy for maintenance workers from Australia’s 36th Squadron and JBLM’s 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron to find common ground. But there are some differences between how both nations’ maintenance Airmen go about their respective processes.
“You guys seem to have an advance on people; you can specialize into key parts,” said Solomon Campbell, a leading aircraftman for the Royal Australian Air Force.
But it was also a learning experience for people to learn about what is used by other international militaries. The various aircraft that were seen included A-10s, B-52s, F-16s, and F-35s.
Of the 25 countries at the exercise, 14 countries are observing different types of airdrops and other needs that might come up during war or humanitarian efforts.
“(We are) seeing what they are capable of doing and seeing them in action,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Johns of the 62nd AMXS.
The AMC’s intent is for Mobility Guardian to take place every other year, with the next exercise tentatively scheduled for 2019. It is unclear if JBLM will be in the running to host in two years, but a lot of thought went into why JBLM was chosen to host the first Mobility Guardian.
“It halves the difference in travel for those in the Pacific,” Zumbrennen said. “It’s more difficult to get to the east coast.”