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18 AF Airmen provide rapid global mobility during Exercise Ultimate Reach

  • Published
  • By Marvin Krause
  • 43rd Airlift Group
Eighteenth Air Force Airmen and seven C-17 Globemaster III aircraft converged on Green Ramp Nov. 3 to provide rapid global mobility support for the 82nd Airborne Division during Exercise Ultimate Reach 16-01.

Ultimate Reach is an annual U.S. Transportation Command-sponsored live-fly exercise designed to exercise the ability of 18th Air Force (Air Forces Transportation) to plan and conduct strategic airdrop missions. This year's Ultimate Reach exercise was combined with NATO Exercise Trident Juncture held at several locations across Europe.

Exercise Trident Juncture was the largest NATO exercise conducted in the last 20 years and demonstrated the collective capabilities of the alliance to deter aggression and, if deterrence fails, respond.

C-17 aircrews from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, flew over 500 Paratroopers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team to execute a Joint Forcible Entry exercise in Zaragoza, Spain, on Nov. 4.

Eight KC-10 Extender refueling aircraft from Travis AFB, California, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, provided in-flight refueling over the Atlantic Ocean for the C-17s during their nine-hour flight to Spain and during their return flight to Fort Bragg for another airdrop on Nov. 7.

"I think Ultimate Reach is really just an outstanding opportunity for the Air Force and the Army to work together to practice deploying the Global Response Force," said Col. John Lamontagne, the Air Force mission commander for this exercise and 437th Airlift Wing commander from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. "This exercise is also an outstanding opportunity to work with NATO to assure and demonstrate to both our allies and our adversaries exactly what we can do."

As the mission commander, Lamontagne provided oversight for the safe execution of the whole formation.

"If asked to execute the GRF on a very short timeline, 96-hours typically, we could do it," said Lamontagne. "It would be a big lift and a lot of work, and that's why we practice with the 82nd all the time. The work with the 43rd Airlift Group and the 82nd here will pay dividends when we need to go on a real-world operation."

America's Global Response Force provides combatant commanders with critical options to respond to international crises, but cannot do so without trained and validated support from its joint Air Force partners. This exercise is another example of that constant training.

The coordination and planning for Exercise Ultimate Reach began in January by planners from the 15th, 16th, and 17th Airlift Squadrons, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, the Tanker Airlift Control Center, 618th Air Operations Center and Air Mobility Command Plans and Exercises, Scott AFB, Illinois, 2nd Air Refueling Squadron, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, 43rd Airlift Group and the 82nd Abn. Div., Fort Bragg, North Carolina, NATO and European Command.

"This is the first large exercise I've ever planned," said Capt. Daniel Naske, the Air Force lead planner from the 15th AS. "I met with the 82nd Abn. Div. and AMC exercise planners to start laying the groundwork on how we were going to execute this exercise which included land, sea and air movements--all sorts of integration going on. Essentially, we're crossing the ocean in a block of airspace that we are cleared to fly in because it's not very standard to have seven airplanes in close proximity to one another flying the same route of flight. All of that coordination was done at the TACC. We gave them our requirements and then they coordinated through the air route traffic control centers in New York and Santa Maria, and then with USAFE altitude reservation planners just to make sure that route of flight was good in Spain."

Planning for the international exercise didn't come without obstacles for Naske.

"Some obstacles I had to overcome was just learning who I need to talk to get things moving in the right direction, but once people were identified, everyone that I have worked with has been incredible." Naske said. "The nice part about the air-refueling piece, early on, we identified Capt. Tom Dunn from McGuire, who is the lead air-refueling planner and he's done a phenomenal job keeping us in the loop. Having that planner identified early on and being on the same page has alleviated a lot of the problems that we could have had. With these international exercises, there's an added piece of complexity that I had to work through because I hadn't done it before but like I said, everybody was very willing to help out and very enthusiastic about helping me get this to execution," said Naske.

More than 5,000 U.S. service members participated in Exercise Trident Juncture. Elements of the exercise were conducted in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and at sea. Trident Juncture formally ended on Nov. 6.