AEW Stand up

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- More than 800 U.S. forces and allies arrived this week at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska for Cooperative Cope Thunder06-03, the Air Force's largest multilateral air combat exercise in the pacific.

Filling the role of lead wing this year is the 35th Fighter Wing Wild Weasels of Misawa Air Base, Japan. Leading the charge is Col. Nelson Cabot, 35th Air Expeditionary Wing commander.

Over the last several days each unit has arrived, bedded down and began preparations to begin air operations in a joint and combined environment.

"The deployment phase has gone as smoothly as any large force exercise could go," said Colonel Cabot. "Where all here now and ready for the exercise to begin.

The Colonel's overarching expectation for his wing is to integrate U.S. and allied forces and learn to work together in an operational environment.

"The intent for us is to be able to fly in a joint and combined manner and to understand each of our capabilities as they relate to each other in case we ever need to put these skills to the test ‘real world.'"

Before the flying begins, all support functions must be fully operational. From personnel to logistics and fuels to computers, support Airmen worked relentlessly behind the scenes to deploy personnel, ready equipment and establish lodging and meals, according to AEW Support Group commander and F-16 pilot, Maj. Donald Mench.

"I'm proud of our support troops. They got us here and established with a place to sleep, meals, computers and equipment, so now we can all focus on our jobs and get the mission accomplished."

AEW maintainers are busy preparing a variety of aircraft to take on the vast 68,000 square miles of range space offered by the Pacific Alaska Range Complex during the exercise.

"Our goal is to have safe and efficient exercise, keep our lines of communication open and to learn and interact with other participating forces" said Lt. Col. Stuart Lum, 35th AEW Maintenance Group commander. "Now we're established as an AEW we're eager to see the fruit of our labor as we begin launching jets. We expect to learn a lot from each other and each participating country."

Nations participating in this year's large force employment exercise include: United States, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Mongolia, NATO, South Korea, Bangladesh, Germany, Slovak Republic and Australia.