Altus AFB strengthens capabilities in multi-base exercise

  • Published
  • By by Senior Airman Dillon Davis
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Members from the 97th Air Mobility Wing took part in a two-day flying operations training exercise from March 3-4, 2016.

The training exercise is part of the Altus Air Force Base Quarterly Exercise Program (ALTEX) which was established to enhance aircrew instructor opportunities and provide exposure to realistic and emerging tactical scenarios.

For this exercise, dubbed “ALTEX 16A”, multiple units assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing from Altus AFB, Okla. coordinated and trained with members of the 62nd Airlift Wing from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. and the 60th Air Mobility Wing from Travis Air Force Base, Calif.

The exercise expanded the knowledge of formal training unit instructors and allowed aircrew students to get a first-hand look at how the U.S. Air Force is adapting to and overcoming emerging threats.

“The main objective for this exercise is formal training unit development,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Shane Williams, 97th Operations Support Squadron chief of wing tactics. “Our enlisted and officer instructors are focusing on creating a realistic tactical scenario that relates to our mission in the Middle East.”

The aircrew spent the first day planning the mission and coordinating between squadrons to formulate the most effective mission approaches. During the planning process, participating members collaborated to create multiple mission objectives and processes to complete them. It allowed students the opportunity to learn about current tactical scenarios in the Air Force.

“We want our instructors to become the most competent instructors available in the entire Mobility Air Force,” said Williams. “Doing so, will create a trickle-down effect of teaching students what is happening in the operational units.”

“For this exercise I came up with a realistic airdrop load plan to match the scenario,” U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ken Common, 58th Airlift Squadron instructor loadmaster and flight tactics planner. “Our goal was to improve crew resource management on the aircraft.”

The second day of the exercise was the mission execution. On that day, eight aircraft took off from Altus AFB to meet four aircraft from Travis AFB and JB Lewis-McChord. The entire training mission took approximately seven hours. Because of the short time frame for a complex mission, the planning stage played a vital role and the aircrews had to keep to a strict timeline for each objective.

“We have three different airframes participating in this exercise: U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft, U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft, and the KC-10 Extender refueling aircraft,” said Williams. “Altogether there are 12 aircraft involved in this exercise and there are 34 formal training unit instructors. Additionally, we are working with two geographically separated units from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. While accomplishing our objectives, we were able to hone skills that deal with over-arching planning, degraded-global positioning system operations, low-level flying operations, high-altitude formations, landings, takeoffs, on-call airdrops, joint-forcible entries, VFR navigation and fall-back procedures for the KC-135s, large-scale formations.”

“We had our loadmasters help pilots with low-level charts, which isn’t something we do normally, but in these types of scenarios it can really help out the pilots,” said Common. “It is important for everyone to know what is happening on the aircraft and, as loadmasters, the exercise let us take it to the next level and helping the pilots with low-level charts and calling out threats. By helping with the charts, the pilots are more able to focus on the overall task and it improves mission effectiveness.”
More than 49 Airmen participated in the multi-base exercise. The large-scale coordination helped to improve instructors and students understanding of how to plan future operations that may involve a number of units.

“This exercise created opportunities for integration between numerous weapon systems and base agencies,” said Williams. “These opportunities allow instructors to be exposed to the tactical employment of their weapon systems and, in return, teach these lessons learned to students at the formal training units here.”

Altus Air Force Base is the home to the only formal training units for all C-17 and KC-135 aircrew, which means, these instructors set the standard for what students can expect when they are assigned to operational units.

“This exercise helped to make us stronger as instructors and it’s something that we can pass on to future students,” said Common. “The better we are at our job, the better we are able to teach them.”
In addition to the flying units’ participation, the 97th Medical Group brought their expertise to the table to add to the realism of the exercise scenarios.

“I helped the aircrew simulate a high altitude airdrop mission of 12 jumpers for a high altitude high opening at 20,000 feet,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Isaac McClary, 97th Medical Operations Support Squadorn NCO in charge of Aerospace and Operational Physiology Flight. “I also provided medical support for a simulated decompression sickness patient and aided in their safe return to Altus AFB.”

Aerospace medicine is well aware of the dangers of altitude and how it can affect the human body. They understand the importance of training for these situations to keep aircrew members aware of the risks and how to act in various scenarios.

“This exercise allowed flight medicine to gain experience in responding to a simulated in-flight emergency,” said McClary. “Our goal was to give the aircrew practical real-world knowledge of what to expect and to help plan for an actual mission. Provide as much information as possible prior to mission launch will help the aircrew during mission planning.”

The exercise culminated in a successful training experience for each unit involved and gave each unit an idea of how aircrews can improve for future missions.

“Immediately following the exercise I got feedback from some of the participants that some of the low-level charts needed updating,” said Common. “With that information we were able to make improvements that will help out greatly in future missions.”