KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --
Flying squadrons from Kadena were a part of a joint service exercise with units from the U.S. Marine Corps to practice air-to-air superiority while protecting ground troops June 30 at Kadena Air Base.
For this large force exercise, the Kadena's own 44th and 67th Fighter Squadrons practiced joint air operations with the Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 225 F/A-18 Hornets and several F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Vermont Air National Guard's 158th Fighter Wing currently deployed to Kadena while protecting Marine and Air Force helicopters and Marine ground troops.
"Working with the Marines provided an opportunity to see how to integrate the air piece with something on the ground," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Nathan Franklin, 33rd Rescue Squadron pilot. "This is the first LFE I've been in that actually had a ground piece incorporated into an exercise. It was an interesting thing to see."
An important piece of the exercise was to practice air-to-air capabilities of deterrence while protecting ground troops and the rescue helicopters all at the same time.
Franklin said, with the fighters halting any air offensive and preventing any further attack from overhead, it allows the ground troops and the rescue helicopters to complete their mission without any fear of reprisal from the air.
"This exercise validated the tactic used," Franklin said. "As long as we have rescue combat air patrol along with the fighters in the air, the enemy just doesn't have time to worry about what we are doing below, which means we can push forward and support them better."
It takes that cooperation between fighters, both Air Force and Marine, and helicopters to work together in order to make the mission as successful as possible.
"The Marines often work by helicopter insertion in order to take advantage of the element of surprise as well as improved mobility," said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Chester Watts, VMFA(AW)-225 schedules officer. "However, some threats both air-to-air and surface-to-air make that too risky, which is why we have fighters responsible for eliminating those threats."
It's that flawless integration of both aircraft and U.S. services that provides for the common defense of Japan and the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.