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NEWS | Dec. 10, 2021

‘Heavy’ training highlights partnerships, readiness

By Shaun Eagan 87th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Units at the nation’s only tri-service joint base collaborated for a training event Dec. 7 that provided a rare opportunity to test airlift and contingency response capabilities with “heavyweight” cargo. 

Squadrons from the 305th Air Mobility Wing and 621st Contingency Response Wing leveraged their capabilities to complement each other through a hands-on, practical approach where two U.S. Army Stryker vehicles were loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III prior to successfully operating the aircraft.

“It is not common for us to do heavyweight training in the actual jet,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Maria Juliano, 6th Airlift Squadron assistant operations director. “This will keep our pilots ready and familiar with landing and getting a good feel for how the jet handles at heavier weights, and allows us to introduce and train our Airmen to [Agile Combat Environment] concepts; ultimately having them ready to go and being better prepared.”

The “heavyweight” training is an annual requirement that is usually conducted through simulators, according to Juliano.

However, she mentioned the goal this time was to bring more realism into the equation, and find a way to have pilots think more in depth about takeoff and landing distance, consider hot brake temperatures and think about cockpit resource management in a new way.

“We usually have no clue what we’re transporting until we arrive to our destination,” Juliano explained. “Whether it’s light or heavy cargo, this helps us ensure we’re ready for any contingency.”

While this hands-on training is a first, the two Air Force wings have familiarity working with one another.

The C-17, flown by the 6th AS, is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to military bases around the globe, and it can operate out of small austere airfields with heavy workloads. The 6th AS has transported 621 CRW personnel and various cargo in support of global humanitarian and contingency response missions.

To maximize the “realism” of this opportunity, the squadrons brought in the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance for Stryker vehicles, which added 50-60k pounds to the aircraft, Juliano said.

“Strykers are not the most common thing that we fly, and it’s rarer to have them loaded during a training sortie,” Juliano said. “While the [simulator] is helpful in a lot of ways, some of the ‘seat of your pants’ feelings are lost there...it’s important to make sure we know how to fly in any condition and get trained on the things we don’t think about in a simulator.”

The pilots gained a new perspective, but this training wasn’t designed just for them.

“These opportunities are great for the contingency response Airmen who put into practice all the training we do,” said Master Sgt. Juan Longoria, 621st Contingency Response Group future operations noncommissioned officer in charge. “Aerial porters benefit from these trainings because their skills are pivotal, along with loadmasters, to ensure all cargo and passengers are good to go for any mission.”

Airmen from the 321 and 621 Contingency Response Squadrons were responsible for conducting inspections to ensure the Stryker vehicles were ready to fly, loading and tying down the vehicles and monitoring the cargo during various landings.

Longoria explained these joint training opportunities help determine their capabilities and ensure their Airmen are ready at all times.

“We deploy at a moment’s notice all over the world to support contingency response missions,” Longoria said. “This [training] makes it very similar to our real world experiences, even if it is at home station. Our aerial porters definitely practice like we play because we have to; our job is to make the mission happen and make sure everyone and everything gets there and back safely.”

By leveraging partnerships and finding new ways to collaborate, this event shined a light on the possibilities at Joint Base MDL.

“It was great to work with the 621 CRW for this training,” Juliano said. “They were very responsive and excited to help which made planning and accomplishing the event run smoothly. I believe they got some good aerial porter training out of the locals, and the pilots and loadmasters got a lot of good training, too. The pilots were able to see the differences in flying heavier compared to the standard training weights. Overall, we all got some great training out of this event."