JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
Personnel of 673d Air Base Wing, 3rd Wing, and 477th Fighter Group participated in Polar Force 18-5, an operational readiness exercise conducted semiannually to test Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s readiness, April 2 to 13.
“These exercises are used as an evaluation of the processes, policies and procedures of deploying personnel and equipment,” said Brad Harris, 673d Air Base Wing inspection planner. “During Polar Force 18-5, we are also evaluating Airmen performing their collective capabilities in an exercise environment while… demonstrating their ability to survive and operate.”
Polar Force is made up of a variety of scenarios which test Airmen’s ability to handle real-world scenarios, and strengthens and develops the skills Airmen need when faced with challenging situations.
“Our most important responsibility is to be ready to respond to a developing crisis whether here in the Indo-Pacific region or elsewhere in the world,” said Air Force Col. Christopher Neimi, 3rd Wing commander. “In Polar Force we assess our ability to mobilize our Airmen and execute essential tasks at a moment’s notice.”
The exercise typically includes two phases, the first week primarily focuses on deployment and reception operations, while the second week focuses on employment operations.
Before an exercise can reach its objectives, in-depth planning is necessary. Each exercise is designed to meet the commanders’ priorities.
“Our planning starts about 90 days before the exercise,” Harris said. “First, members of the wing inspection team from each of the squadrons meet with the inspector general office to develop a strategy to meet the wing commanders’ objectives. Then, the group and squadron commanders meet to make sure their individual objectives are also falling in line with overall priorities. A plan is then developed and a Polar Force exercise emerges.
“This exercise is also a part of the Air Force inspection system where we are required to conduct a readiness assessment once a year. Once it is over, the WIT comes together and we put together a report identifying deficiencies, strengths and recommended areas for improvement which serves as a sort of after-action report to the wing commander.”
Conducting regular Polar Force exercises allow personnel to work through obstacles, so when the time comes, JBER can respond efficiently and effectively.
“We had a challenging two weeks where we tested the limits of the Pacific’s power-projection platform,” said Air Force Col. George Dietrich, JBER and 673d ABW commander. “We should all understand that we can be called at a moment’s notice. An exercise like this is our opportunity to prove to ourselves that we will be ready to go when that call comes.”