Leader Blues

Friday, December 05, 2008

TOP STORY > >Canadians join local exercise

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Two men wearing the traditional Arab Dishdashah and headpiece wandered casually up to a checkpoint manned by armed U.S. and Canadian guards at an air installation. The two engaged the guards in conversation for a few moments until suddenly there was a loud explosion, killing the two and crippling one sentry.

The sounds of gunfire erupted from two different tree lines as a handful of attackers tried to overrun a small air base with a Canadian C-130 parked on the tarmac.

So went day four of the five-day joint readiness training exercise dubbed Exercise Green Flag. All the rifle rounds were blanks
in the Air Force’s version of laser tag.

The 34th Combat Training Squadron is hosting 100 Canadian airmen, including four six-man C-130 crews, from 8 Wing, deployed from Trenton, Ontario, through Sat-urday at the base. The exercise is with the 50th, 53rd and 61st Airlift Squadrons, all part of the 19th Airlift Wing.

About 300 Little Rock airmen, including four planes and five-man crews, joined their Canadian comrades in the air mobility portion of the training underway with the U.S. Army at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.

The Army usually has between 1,500 and 5,000 soldiers involved in their joint training exercises and the Canadian and U.S. air forces will transport soldiers or material as required by the exercise.

The C-130s could be called upon to land and offload its cargo, to make a parachute drop of it or to land, keep moving and roll the cargo pallets out the back door before taking off.

“We do these exercises 10 times a year,” said Lt. Col. Ashley Salter, director of operations for the 34th Training Wing.

It’s generally done in conjunction with the Army and with C-130 airlift wings from Canada, England or Germany, he said.

Maj. Bradley Wintrup said when his crews return from this exercise, they will be ready for deployment to Afghanistan.

“We do this once a year upon invitation,” he said.

Salter said the exercises give experience to junior commanders or senior co-pilots so they get their first five “combat” missions under their belts before being sent into a war zone.

He said that much of the crew training is done now in simulators, but that the exercises in real planes under combat-like conditions help build situational awareness and combat experience. The trainers from the 34th Training Wing will evaluate the exercises and grade the airmen.