Bulldogs in the Philippines

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Vaughn Weber
  • 355 WG/PA

Airmen from Davis-Monthan and other participating bases across the U.S. participated in Exercise Cope Thunder 23-2 in the Philippines, July 5-21, 2023.

The expectations of CT 23-2 were to strengthen U.S. and Indo-Pacific relationships and interoperability with tactical units while bolstering combat capability. It showed the Philippine Air Force how the U.S. Air Force operates in austere locations with less resources and moves in a timely manner from point A to point B.

On the 354th Fighter Generation Squadron’s side, weather conditions effected gear, water on the flight line was difficult to acquire, jet parking did not always pan out and the lack of a supply system made acquiring parts difficult. To combat this, more prep work was required, more detail and care had to be taken to ensure parts were dry, and a general knowledge of what usually goes right and wrong was necessary for planning out what tools to bring for maintenance.

“Climate affects avionics components, especially here because we get more rain than at DM. If we we’re not doing things as carefully, certain components could get wet and radios may fry,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nathan Houghton, 354th FGS dedicated crew chief for the A-10C Thunderbolt II. “At first, the language barrier with PAF was tough, but once everyone understood expectations and standard operating procedures then it started to smooth over and we worked together to operate in this location.”

Six A-10C Thunderbolt IIs and over 140 troops were rapidly deployed 7000 miles across the world to an unfamiliar environment and skillfully integrated with PAF partners. Together the U.S. and PAF executed the mission and quickly overcame every challenge that arose. The 354th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was instrumental with their ability to adapt in rapidly-changing situations and overcome challenges in this regard.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to go over the pond for a temporary duty and not actually deploy so this brought a lot of challenges as far as loading tanks, making sure the aircraft are fully caught up with scheduled maintenance and everything of that nature,” said Houghton. “For a lot of us crew chiefs, this was the first full-scale exercise TDY we did over the pond that mimicked a deployment scenario.”

The main challenge the 354th Fighter Squadron faced was operating in an unfamiliar environment. DM’s pilots trained in a new environment which provided an extremely valuable experience for them. Some specific examples include operating under the flight rules of a foreign country and integrating with PAF partners whom many of DM’s pilots had never worked with before for planning, executing and debriefing missions.

“Going into the exercise, we expected that it would require ample flexibility from all players in order to maximize effectiveness and integration,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Liam “Roomba” Baldwin, 354th FS electromagnetic combat officer. “We're looking forward to future integration opportunities with the PAF.”

This exercise is another representation of how the Agile Combat Employment concept is keeping our Air Force lethal and ready to win tomorrow’s wars.