Fighter Squadron returns home with stronger allies, sharper skills
By Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 08, 2017
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
Airmen from the 35th Fighter Wing returned to Misawa Air Base, Japan, March 4, after a month long exercise.
The wing sent approximately 130 Airmen and 14 F-16 Fighting Falcons to exercise COPE NORTH 17 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, improving aerial and ground-based combat readiness and developing interoperability between the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, Royal Australian Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force.
"We strengthened our ties with our partner nations two fold,” said Lt. Col. Mark Heusinkveld, 14th Fighter Squadron commander. “By living and working next to our partner nations, Japan and Australia for almost a month, we got to know the people, not just the weapon systems. We made friendships that are incredibly long lasting and important to our future.”
Being in Guam gave pilots and maintainers the opportunity to forge friendships but also hone skills by integrating tactically with their Pacific partners.
“We become a stronger fighting force by integrating our strengths in the air battle,” Heusinkveld continued. “By mission planning, executing, and debriefing with the partners we learned each other's system capabilities and strengths.
The exercise included 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from the three countries, focusing on growing interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
“It was my first time at CN17 and had a great experience,” said Sergeant Jeff McLaughlin, Royal Australian Air Force Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office maintenance liaison coordination. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the U.S. Air Force and JASDF personnel in the maintenance workforce to coordinate and effectively support the aircraft.”
Each piece of CN17 was designed to integrate all nations in wartime and peacetime scenarios.
“We flew dissimilar air combat training missions with our partner nations and U.S. forces in the beginning of the exercise to learn similarities and differences in how our partner nations operate,” said Capt. Aaron Koveleskie, a 14th FS fighter pilot.
The exercise featured a full spectrum of fighter, bomber, airlift, tanker, rescue and command and control aircraft, allowing Airmen to experience high tempo mission operations in a controlled environment.
“The biggest benefit is the ability to mix up the playing field a bit,” said Airman 1st Class Jamie Smith, a 14th Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-16 dedicated crew chief. “Instead of always integrating with the same people every day, you're taking different aircraft, with different capabilities and tasking them all to accomplish the same mission. In a real world scenario, being able to work together at a moment’s notice is pivotal to achieving success.”
Now in its 87th iteration, the long-standing multilateral training exercise helped to improve combat readiness and multinational interoperability among participating militaries.
“The 35th Fighter Wing’s dedication and support to enhance our combat readiness is second to none,” said Col. R. Scott Jobe, 35th FW commander. “Through this exercise we developed our comradery amongst ourselves and our partner nations, continuing our fight tonight mindset across the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”