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Joint training exercise success

  • Published
  • By Rhonda Griffin
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Despite threatening weather conditions, the Air Force and Army once again worked together to pull off a successful Joint Forcible Entry Exercise. JFEX, usually held six times each year at Pope, is a joint contingency operation to airdrop troops and equipment as quickly as possible in a realistic training exercise.

This exercise, held March 8 through 12, was rare in the fact that it consisted of only C-130s. Seven aircraft from the 317th Airlift Group at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and four from the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock AFB, Ark., and ground support crews from the 615th Contingency Response Wing at Travis AFB, Calif., and Pope kept the flightline busy with several airdrops to the Holland Drop Zone on Fort Bragg throughout the week.

Many squadrons at Pope were instrumental to the success of the exercise, including the 43rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 3rd Aerial Port Squadron, 43rd Operations Support Squadron and the 43rd Logistics Readiness Squadron.

Both the Air Force and Army have objectives with each JFEX. The Air Force has a planned goal for heavy equipment drops and the Army for the number of jumpers from the 82nd Airborne Division, said Thomas Schillinger, 43rd AMXS Logistics Manager. During this exercise, the rainy weather had a significant impact on the outcome, he said, but the exercise still went off with few problems.

More than 1,600 troops from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team parachuted onto the dirt landing zone at Holland, along with several heavy equipment drops during the quick turn-around trips between Pope and Fort Bragg. The 3rd BCT used this exercise toward the members' requirements for recertification, Mr. Schillinger said.

During every JFEX held at Pope, safety is the top priority.

"We work hand-in-hand with the safety office and if we see safety violations, we cease them immediately," said Master Sgt. Eric Hutchison, 43rd AMXS production superintendent.

"We do this about every six weeks," said Maj. Chad Scholes, 43rd AMXS Commander, "with people from at least five different bases throughout the year coming in to support us. It's all about safety."

"We had 95 augmentees here for the week," Mr. Schillinger added, "and we've never had any reportable injuries during JFEX."
These exercises wouldn't be possible without weeks of planning.

"The work starts way before JFEX with planning," said Tech. Sgt. Shawn Tague, 3rd APS Capability Forecaster. "We have to make sure the goals are realistic and attainable during several planning meetings. We bring in units from the other bases that are taking part in the exercise and make sure everything is in place for the kickoff, then we follow through until JEX is done and make sure all of the support equipment is sent back to the bases.

"All in all, I think it went well," he added. "The Army is getting the training they need and 3rd APS is instrumental in helping them get that training."

As a change of pace from his normal day-to-day duties as a customer service technician with the 43rd Comptroller Squadron, Airman Jacob Ragatz got the chance to take to the flightline for a couple of days to help out with JFEX.

The opportunity to take part in the exercise was first presented through an e-mail from Senior Master Sgt. Carolyn Bullock, 43rd CPTS, and when Airman Ragatz spoke to her to find out more of the details, he decided it was a chance he couldn't pass up.

The "shadow-type" program was originally coordinated between Major Scholes and Maj. Michael Kwasnoski, 43rd CPTS Commander, to allow a member of the squadron to go outside the normal realm of duties and obtain hands-on experience in another field.

"I got to marshal a C-130 and worked with the members of AMXS while they were doing their maintenance," Airman Ragatz said. "All of my family are mechanics, so the mentality and all of the things they talked about were things I've been exposed to since I was a little kid. I felt right at home out there."

"It was so much different than what I'm used to from my normal job," he added. "Working in finance, I know we're important to the mission, but you get such a different sense of accomplishment being on the forefront. Seeing those planes filled with troops take off from the flightline and knowing you had a hand in making that happen was very cool."