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317th AG supports JFE, JAATT

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Peter Thompson
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The 317th Airlift Group transported nearly 1,500 soldiers and more than 57,000 pounds of equipment from June 6-8, 2014, while supporting a Joint Forcible Entry Exercise and Joint Airborne/Air Transportability Training at Fort Bragg, N.C.

The exercises were a combined effort with the 82nd Airborne Division to maintain currencies and increase each unit's knowledge of working with the other branch.

The first flying mission took place June 6, the 70th anniversary of D-Day. More than 500 combat-rigged personnel and heavy equipment were loaded onto six C-130J Super Hercules throughout the night for a JFE exercise.

Shortly after midnight, the first wave of soldiers and equipment were dropped onto Blackstone Army Airfield, Fort Pickette, Va.

"Tactical airlift grew out of a partnership with the Army that began in WWII," said Col. Jeffrey Brown, 317th AG commander. "The 82nd is one of America's 9-1-1 forces and we stand ready to make sure it remains so. Last Spring, I made a personal commitment to the 82nd Airborne leadership to increase our teamwork in the months to come."

Upon landing, the airborne infantry seized and secured the airfield as live-fire artillery provided cover and support fire. The C-130s returned to Pope AAF. Four of the six aircraft loaded additional personnel to be dropped at Blackstone AAF.

"These missions are the tangible outcome of that commitment and are great opportunities for the 317th to maintain our paratroop drop capability," Brown said.

Similarly, before sunrise on June 6, 1944, allied paratroopers to include the 82nd Airborne Division, parachuted behind enemy lines beginning the invasion of Nazi controlled Europe. Later that day, the infiltration of Normandy's beaches by more than 70,000 men took place.

"Dropping these soldiers on the same day 70 years later made the mission even more exciting," said Capt. Nathan King, 39th Airlift Squadron aircraft commander. "I think we all appreciate the historical aspect of it and the added bonus to an already awesome mission."

Throughout the following days, the six C-130Js flew in formations ranging from six-ships to staggered two-ships. Personnel and heavy equipment were flown out of Pope AAF and dropped on a nearby landing zone. The JAATTs provided training to both aircrews and parajumpers.

Joint opportunities and exercises are becoming more common for the 317th AG as funding for training increases and future mission requirements evolve.

"We used to fly these missions on a regular basis and probably will in the future, but in the past few years, we haven't been able to," said Capt. John Slottje, 39th AS mission commander. "Having more of these opportunities will help our C-130 crews and the Army when we team up together. We learn how to work better with one another."

The aircrews were not only excited for the mission they accomplished, but also the way it will affect the future of the C-130J and its applications in the Air Force.

"Feeling the guys in the back running and jumping out to the aircraft and hearing 'load clear' bring us a feeling of accomplishment," King said. "This is one of those moments we live for as C-130 pilots and I can't wait to find out how it affects us in the future."