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Forging new international partnerships

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Harry Brexel
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Contingency training with coalition partners is nothing new to Little Rock Air Force Base Airmen. However, the GREEN FLAG 15-07 exercise that recently took place fostered international partnerships like no other.

More than 50 Airmen from across Little Rock AFB participated in the exercise. The scenario of the exercise was dynamic, emphasizing close coordination between intelligence, tactics, operations planning, and aircrew.The exercise focused on precision flying while integrating air units with ground forces in a realistic threat environment.

"This Green Flag truly encompassed Team Little Rock," said Maj. Jeremy Wagner, 34th Combat Training Squadron director of operations. "Active-duty Airmen, Guardsmen, and Reservists all played a role."

Along with local combat airlifters, the operation included members from across the U.S. Department of Defense as well as several international partners. For eight days, the 34th Combat Training Squadron took part in the large-scale air mobility exercise that involved approximately 4,600 people.

This year was the first time that members of the Colombian Air Force traveled to Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, to participate in a joint combat airlift exercise. Twenty-one Colombian Airmen made the 2,500-mile journey aboard their C-295 twin-turboprop aircraft.

"The training that we have received here has been amazing," said Lt. Col. Jose Polo, the Colombian Military Airlift Command human development department chief. "We've learned new tactics and procedures that we can now use in our own country."

The Colombian Air Force has successfully performed multiple airdrops before, but GREEN FLAG 15-07 was the first instance where they displayed their aerial delivery capabilities during an international exercise. The crew also performed a combat offload for the first time in their history. Designed for austere locations, a combat offload occurs when an aircraft partially lands and rapidly offloads pallets from the rear cargo ramp.

"The Colombians have been fantastic to train with," Wagner said. "This exercise gives us an opportunity to build partnership capacity with a significant ally of the U.S. By working together, we have been able to standardize combat airlift procedures that we each perform."

The Royal Australian Air Force also participated in Green Flag, making it the fourth time they have participated in the combat airlift training operation with the 34th CTS.

The Aussies are no strangers to the challenges of Green Flag operations.

Thirty-nine members of the RAAF made the long trek to the center of "The Natural State" in a C-130J aircraft to participate in GREEN FLAG 15-07.

"One of the main purposes of this visit was to train our junior crewmembers about coalition interaction," said RAAF 37 Squadron Leader Simon Kerr. "Coordinating information flow is paramount in operations like this."

Though the RAAF C-130J is slightly modified in comparison with the USAF C-130J, Airmen of both countries were able to learn from and teach each other.

"The Australians are top-shelf aviators," Wagner said. "They are a great contingency partner that can perform just about everything we can when it comes to air mobility."

Prior to their departure, the Australian Airmen already looked forward to more opportunities training with their American counterparts.

"I have already expressed our desire to return again," said Kerr. "The training opportunities are definitely worth it. Our participation in exercises like this allows us to integrate seamlessly with allied nations in the real world."

The 34th CTS hosts Green Flag exercises six to ten times per year, practicing advanced combat airlift tactics and techniques with joint and coalition partners.

"The 34th CTS at Little Rock AFB is the only place that has the resources to serve as a focal point in providing the most realistic, tactical-level, joint combat airlift training," Wagner said.