Like its namesake, Exercise Rainier War was a mountainous undertaking executed by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and Australian air force to train for potential future conflicts June 6 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
“One of the biggest challenges was we planned this for 20 C-17 Globemaster IIIs and that’s a lot of moving parts,” said Capt. Joseph Fry, Rainier War lead and 4th Airlift Squadron chief of tactics and weapons officer. “Finding a way to move large amounts of airlift assets and making sure we don’t have aircraft in the same place, at the same time, at the same altitude.”
The purpose of Rainier War was to highlight the C-17’s capabilities to perform the Air Force’s core competencies of rapid global mobility and precision engagement.
The exercise ultimately included 18 C-17 Globemaster IIIs — 10 from McChord Field, seven from other bases throughout Air Mobility Command and one from Australia — conducting actual container delivery system and heavy equipment airdrops at the Rainier Drop Zone near Moses Lake, and simulated improved CDS, CDS and high altitude low opening personnel airdrops throughout the western United States.
Additionally, three KC-135 Stratotankers performed in-air refueling for the numerous C-17s.
“Seeing multiple C-17 units from both the U.S. and Australia operate effectively together during a complex scenario like this always gives me pride in the expertise of our C-17 aircrew,” said Capt. Mike Watkins, Rainier War’s Air Force lead and 7th Airlift Squadron deputy of chief of standards and evaluations. “Even though there are always improvements that can be made, I believe that the aircrews who planned and flew in this exercise increased their proficiency in many aspects of the C-17s capabilities that only can be practiced during exercises like these.”
Participating in the execution portion of the exercise were 110 aircrew and mission essential personnel from the 4th AS, 7th AS and 62nd Operations Squadron. They were aided in the mission by numerous Airmen in support of the exercise from the 62nd Maintenance Squadron, 62nd Aerial Port Squadron and the multiple flights from the 62nd OSS to include intelligence, weather, crew communications and aircrew flying equipment.
The Army’s 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, and the 13th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion, 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command from JBLM also participated in Rainier War.
The various participants were tested on their ability to find solutions to tactical problems in the air, launch and recover aircraft, properly put on aircrew eye and respiratory protection system and more during Rainier War.
“This exercise is important because it prepares all Airmen supporting the generation of Rainier War to focus their preparation for the future,” Watkins said. “From the extensive launch and recovery efforts provided by maintenance to the continuing evolution of tactics, techniques and procedures utilized by aircrew required to fly against a near-peer adversary, Rainier War highlights the all-encompassing need for all Airmen to prepare for future adversaries and their important roles within this warfighter ethos. Overall, this exercise allows all Airmen to train like we fight and develop ourselves before the impact is felt real-world.”
In addition to the Airmen who executed the exercise, 30 personnel in the mission planning cell comprised of pilots, loadmasters and intelligence officers planned the entire exercise the week prior.
“It’s a really thankless job those guys do,” Fry said. “You work and put together a plan someone else is going to go fly and in the end you don’t necessarily get thanked for that. All the people in the mission planning cell did incredible work.”
Rainier War provided insights on how to better execute a tactical scenario for possible future conflicts and debriefs showed where there could be improvement.
“The debrief highlighted the failures we did have that allows us to improve upon those failures in the future, which is why I rate this as a success,” Fry said. “My vision for this was (the Airmen) would get a fuller appreciation of the spectrum of which this aircraft can be employed and have greater confidence in going forward at attacking and solving tactical problems which may not initial appear to have an easy answer.”
As with someone climbing to the top of Mount Rainier, JBLM Airmen and Soldiers tackled the challenge of planning and executing Exercise Rainier War and reached the summit of their ultimate goal to provide rapid global mobility and precision engagement for the Air Force.