Minnesota AF Reserve wing drops Army airborne unit
By Senior Airman Jared Marquis, 3rd Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 16, 2006
ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Red Flag Alaska prepares Airman for deployment to combat environments. Though it’s hard to recreate real life situations during training, an Air Force Reserve unit deployed here has found a way.
The 934th Airlift Wing, Minnesota’s only Air Force Reserve unit, and lead wing for the Elmendorf component of Red Flag Alaska, is working with the U.S. Army Alaska’s 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division to ensure both units receives the training they need.
The coordination began approximately nine months ago when Lt. Col. Don Petros, Red Flag Alaska project officer for the 934th Airlift Wing, inquired about participating in the exercise formerly know as Cope Thunder.
“When I called to get the details, someone suggested calling the Army to see if they could use our support,” he said.
Long story short, USARAK was more than happy to put the C-130 crewmembers to work.
According to Chuck Canterbury, USARAK Public Affairs, the 4-25th ABCT was recently stood up in Alaska, and expects to deploy later this year. Before deploying though, the Army needed to give the Soldiers some much needed field training.
“This is the largest field training exercise we have conducted in a number of years and is really the only opportunity they are going to get to train as a brigade in state,” said Mr. Canterbury.
He added that having a unit dedicated to airlift support, will be beneficial to the soldiers when they deploy.
“The bottom line is that they are airborne soldiers, not straight leg infantry. When they are transported to their deployed location, they will be inserted by air. It is important for them to train how they fight,” he said.
That was part of what the C-130s were able to do for them when the exercise kicked off.
“We spent [April 24-26] doing personnel air drops,” said Colonel Petros. “Of the approximately 3,500 Soldiers delivered to Allen Army Air Field, Alaska, we transported about a 1,000 — more than half of those were able to parachute in.”
The colonel said they would have liked to air drop all of them, but when the wind wouldn’t cooperate, they canceled the drop and did engine-running offloads.
“Engine-running offloads consist of landing and lowering the cargo ramp so the soldiers can get out. It is a lot faster and the crew is able to get out in a hurry if they come under attack,” he said.
In addition to transporting the soldiers, the C-130s are responsible for re-supplying them.
“They say we deliver the beans and bullets, and it’s actually true,” said Colonel Petros.
This was evident when crews air dropped 12 container delivery system bundles with meals ready to eat and other supplies April 26-28. They delivered the ammunition May 1-3.
In addition to helping the Army train they way they fight, the C-130 crews are obtaining valuable experience for their own deployments.
“We would be here participating in Red Flag even if we weren’t tasked to the Army,” said the colonel. “But in that case, we would only be doing training loads.”
According to Colonel Petros, 15-pound bags of sand are generally used to represent people during training loads; live bodies are quite a bit different. All in all, he said the crewmembers are getting a year’s worth of training in two weeks. They also get opportunities they might not get in a deployed environment.
“It is rare for an individual crewmember to get the chance to drop a howitzer like the one we delivered the other day.”
Also flying out of Elmendorf for the exercise are EA-6B Prowlers from the Navy, 962nd and 964th Airborne Air Control Squadron’s E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System, F-15Es from the 90th Fighter Squadron and F-15Cs from the 19th Fighter Squadron. Two hundred and sixty of the 472 Red Flag personnel located at Elmendorf are on temporary duty.
Red Flag Alaska takes place at Elmendorf and Eielson Air Force bases. (Courtesy of Pacific Air Forces)