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 Airmen of 962nd AACS train with U.S., Australian and Japanese forces at Andersen Air Force Base
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Cope North 2013
Australian airmen guide a Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornet aircraft into position Feb. 1, 2013, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in preparation for a photo shoot during exercise Cope North 2013. Cope North is an annual air combat tactics, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise designed to increase the readiness and interoperability of the U.S. Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense Force and RAAF. (DoD photo by Leading Aircraftman Craig Barrett, Royal Australian Air Force)
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3rd Wing E-3 Sentries fl y south to Guam for COPE NORTH

Posted 2/21/2013   Updated 2/21/2013 Email story   Print story


by Air Force 1st Lt. Matthew Chism
JBER Public Affairs

2/21/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Continually, military members are called upon to participate in exercises at home or abroad, but to what end?

Ex-er-cise: something performed or practiced in order to develop, improve or display a specific capability or skill.

Exercises are more than a chance for Airmen to practice the mission; an exercise also represents an opportunity to showcase abilities and develop working relationships, which extend beyond cultures, backgrounds and languages.

During the last two weeks, the 3rd Wing's 962d Airborne Air Control Squadron from JBER has been developing, improving, and integrating capabilities alongside other U.S. Air Force, Australian and Japanese assets during Cope North 2013 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Cope North is a tri-lateral large-force exercise hosted by Pacific Air Forces to promote regional security and stability of the region by increasing combat readiness and interoperability of U.S. Forces, Australian Defence Force, and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

"Here in Alaska we are a part of the air defense mission, and we support the capability of crisis and threat response in the Pacific Theater of Operations," said Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Erickson, 962d AACS commander. "During Cope North, we are able to facilitate an environment, in coordination with our international partners, which allows us to share information to decision makers. This provides those on the ground and in the air the best possible situational awareness. "

The 962d AACS members who are participating in the exercise said there is clear communication with everyone involved.

"Our folks will be working hard to maintain a clear picture with all of the friendly forces which include Pacific U.S. Air Force, Australian and Japanese assets," said Air Force Capt. Walter Goss, 962d AACS navigator/assistant director of operations. "That support will extend throughout the exercise from the humanitarian portion and combined training missions."

During the humanitarian portion, the operations-focused squadron honed their communication practices with the other participants.

"Cope North is a great test of our interoperability, which is extremely important in the Pacific," Erickson said. "Joining with our sister squadron from Kadena Air Base, [Okinawa, Japan] and our international partners in the region, we are working together as one team... comparing tactics, techniques and procedures."

Goss explained this exercise provides an opportunity to exercise capabilities used during the unit's wartime mission.

"In wartime, we feed a picture to the Combined Air and Space Operations Center," Gross said. "This provides coordination between all of our partners as we work de-confliction and additional radar coverage. Our wartime mission is dynamic, so we strive to maintain proficiency, especially within our core competencies."

Whether in an exercise abroad like Cope North or a home station one like Red Flag-Alaska, the 962d AACS has to accomplish a number of things before the squadron's E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System can get to work.

"When we send our Airmen out to a large exercise, we check their readiness as if it were a real world mission tasking," Erickson said. "It takes a lot to get a team ready to go out the door while still maintaining the readiness of the squadron for a real contingency. Our mobility folks do an outstanding job."

Members of the mobility staff "coordinated the mandatory training, processed information to the Joint Mobility Center and completed Installation Deployment Readiness Center processes for approximately 30 Airmen from the squadron," said Staff Sgt. Eric Mackey, 962d AACS mobility noncommissioned officer.

Goss also explained an aircrew executes scenario-specific training to prepare them for their upcoming missions.

"The aircrew completes simulator missions prior to leaving for a deployment to replicate likely scenarios and enhance crew coordination," Goss said.

All of that work culminates in a prepared crew, but what about the plane?

"The maintenance intensity here is remarkable. The maintainers want the planes to fly as badly as the aircrew does," Goss said.

"Our maintainers are always on top of things, installing new software updates that allow us to communicate with even the newest systems," Erickson said. "962d [Aircraft Maintenance Unit] maintainers work hard to keep these very complex 35-year-old aircraft flying, and my hat goes off to those men and women."

"These men and women work through location restraints and remain extremely operations focused," Goss said. "In our squadron there is no division when it comes to the mission. There is no 'us and them,' it's we, and it's an amazing environment to work in."

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