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Air Force, Army makes history in first ever JOAX

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Zachary Hassay
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Team Pope, along with the 82nd Airborne Division, took the lead in initiating the first ever Joint Operational Access Exercise here, from Feb. 8 to Feb. 16. Pope and the 82nd Airborne Division worked diligently with various other units to prepare our service members with the skills necessary to achieve their missions in joint operational and wartime situations.

JOAX kicked off with Large Package Week and transitioned into the exercise, formerly known as Joint Forcible Entry Exercise. Similar to JFEX, JOAX exists as a training mission between the Air Force and Army ensures not only individual proficiency and qualifications are maintained, but also increases effectiveness and obtains a greater working knowledge of each service's operational mission.

According to Lt. Col. Christine Locke, 43rd Operations Support Squadron Commander, one objective of JOAX was to certify the 3rd BCT as the Global Response Force.

The JOAX mission consisted of real-world contingency scenarios and transient airlift operations. It also included local joint training exercises, Aerial Port support over passengers and cargo, and Jump manifesting and loading. The goal was to conduct a realistic practice of real-world contingency operations by exercising Global Response Force capabilities and preparedness, building partnerships and enhancing skills and capabilities.

"They are the U.S. government's Quick Reaction Force," she explained. "The 3rd BCT has a set timeline for when personnel are expected to be prepared and ready to deploy at a moment's notice and carry out any mission they are tasked.

During JOAX 5,933 Army paratroopers jumped, approximately 350 tons of cargo was airlifted on 257 airlift missions involving 27 Aircraft from 8 different Airlift Wings.

"The Army needed training and jump time and the Air Force needed training and cargo drop time," she said. "Both entities supported one another. It's hard to get training with real parachutes, real heavy equipment and Container Delivery System drops specifically for C-17s and C-130s, we simulate a lot of this training, but it's real hard to get a lot of hands on training."

Staff Sgt. Joshua David, 43rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, conducted maintenance, launched and refueled numerous aircraft. He worked side by side with Army personnel as they set up essential communications systems as well as upload cargo and equipment to the aircraft and conduct jump operations.

"From a maintenance perspective, the differences of transitioning from JFEX to JOAX were the significant increase in airflow, joint service and joint force interaction as well as the training we receive," Sergeant David said. "We have a good working relationship with the 82nd Airborne and our pilots. This training is important to help our cohesiveness with other units, the Army and other services."

Sergeant David added that, without the Army's communications systems, the Air Force cannot perform their functions and without the Air Force, the Army can't perform their functions. JOAX is vitally important for our real world mission and it appears as though our personnel were more engaged in their roles and responsibilities during the exercise."

During LPW, the operations were broken into a 12-hour tactical shifts consisting of day operations and night operations. Personnel drops and supply/resupply missions were flown during day and night operations over a period of four days. In between flying operations, leadership planned the next events and ensured personnel sustained operations by loading and setting-up cargo, performing maintenance, fueling the aircraft and briefing essential personnel on the upcoming scenarios.
The main strategic location for the pre-positioned JOAX equipment was at Joint Task Force Port Opening, Camp McCall, said Colonel Locke. Camp McCall was established as an intermediate staging base, which simulated a U.S. militarized zone in a deployed environment.

Pope Airmen not only participated in JOAX, but still managed to ensure normal operations of the 43rd Airlift Wing were accomplished without delay and with no major mishaps. Throughout JOAX the 43rd Airlift Wing managed to maintain a 95 percent departure reliability rate.

"The mission doesn't stop and we have to manage all aircraft inbound and outbound," said Sergeant David. "The aircraft do break and we do undergo a real world feel on all aspects of operations. The experience is just phenomenal and you can't beat the training we is top notch! "

Every JOAX will have its own established training objectives outlined for the Air Force and Army, however all future exercises will be similar in nature and conducted on a quarterly basis.

"This is a great exercise of the Army's joint operational access capability to respond when the nation dials 911, whether it's supporting an armed conflict or a humanitarian crisis requirement" said Colonel James Johnson, 43rd Airlift Wing Commander. "Team Pope has to be ready today and into the future for the very next call which comes to Pope. Pope's Airmen have to be ready to fix, fuel, load, operate, and command and control missions supporting Fort Bragg's forces. And Pope's Airmen proved their motto once again during this JOAX....the motto they will carry on for Pope Field...they proved they are "READY NOW!"