ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The scenario: multiple noncombatants are needing airlift out of a country under civil unrest. Enemy aircraft are in the air, hostiles on the ground have anti-aircraft devices and the people needing to be evacuated are growing restless.
Scenarios like these are what the Air Force trains for. With the training capabilities of the 97th Air Mobility Wing, scenarios like this are prepared for every day. The coordinated effort for training allows it to surpass standards and allows training to reach for the skies.
The Altus Exercise (Altex) is a quarterly training event at the 97th AMW where the flying squadrons keep their proficiency at operational scenarios. The scenario used this time, focused on joint training between the C-17 Globemaster IIIs and KC-135 Stratotankers from the 97th AMW and F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 138th Fighter Wing, Tulsa Air National Guard Base, Okla. The exercise gave the 97th AMW a unique opportunity to project its air power in a training scenario.
“The goal of the exercise was to integrate our tactics with the tactics of the Combat Air Force and create some team objectives,” said Capt. Nathan Miller, a C-17 instructor pilot assigned to the 58th Airlift Squadron. “We don’t see that very often so it can be easy for us to not fully understand what capabilities other aircraft have and vice versa. So, it’s important to go out and do this every so often so we can broaden the exposure for everybody.”
The exercise was planned out down to the smallest detail however, not everything goes according to plan.
“Right when we were headed out the door, the entire plan changed due to weather,” said Capt. Anthony Gole, a KC-135 instructor pilot assigned to the 54th Air Refueling Squadron. “We were able to get all three units on the same page. I’d have to say the biggest success of the day was the coordination between the units.”
The exercise pressed forward without delay despite the unexpected, just another example of the outstanding aircrew thinking on their feet and adapting to real world changes.
“I think today was a resounding success,” said Gole. “We took off on time, executed our air refueling mission and were able to simulate a passenger on-load. So we exercised two of the many different roles we could have as tankers.”
Exercises can be important for many reasons, but the biggest among the crews was the incorporation of the F-16s to make this event a more operationally-based scenario.
“I think we should do more exercises like this more often,” said Miller. “It helps our proficiency as a crew force, broadens our exposure and gets us ready for things that could happen operationally. There’s a lot of repetition here because of the training mission, so making sure we’re in tune with what people are doing operationally is important. I feel like we all learn something with exercises like this and we take what we learn and try to do better next time.”
Saving lives, training hard and pushing capabilities to the limit is just another day at the 97th AMW.