Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Protecting millions at a moment's notice

by Senior Airman Derek VanHorn
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

7/9/2013 - CHITOSE AIR BASE, Japan -- Consider yourself responsible for the lives of millions of people every single day. Your goal is to keep them alive and be there for each one of them at a moment's notice, day and night.

Believe it or not, the position has already been filled.

It's the mission of Pacific Air Forces - the major command responsible for the Asia-Pacific region during peacetime, through crisis and in war. The immense responsibility of upholding these demands is spread across nine Air Force bases, and this week, members of the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base, Japan, played their part during a weeklong Aviation Training Relocation to Northern Japan.

Nearly 100 Airmen cut the Independence Day holiday weekend short, piled on to a C-130 Hercules and met up with 12 U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots here where they teamed up with members of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to employ bilateral training.

Maj. Jason Mascetta, 13th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations who is the detachment commander while here, said the training began out of the gates as U.S. pilots battled their way into Chitose during simulated combat with JASDF F-15Js. The training pitted the forces to fight with and against each other in a handful of unique scenarios, including single-jet and team battles.

Along with strengthening the relationship between the host nation and U.S. Air Forces tactically, the mission highlighted the flexibility and responsiveness of Misawa Airmen.

Before jets can flex their aerial muscles, a lot has to be done on the ground and behind the scenes to make a short-notice operation flow smoothly. Airmen are constantly training for these instances, making execution under pressure a second nature reaction.

"Chitose was very short-notice, and the effort of all the players to make this happen smoothly was extraordinary," said Senior Airman Kristina Fordham, 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron planner. "There are a lot of moving parts, and without preparation, we can't execute the mission."

"We went from zero to kickoff in less than 30 days," said Master Sgt. Daniel Hook, 13th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flight chief and mission project supervisor.

Organizing Airmen from handfuls of different squadrons to relocate their lives to a distant island for a week sounds like a logistical nightmare. However, these motivated Airmen make it look easy - even if it takes molding career fields.

Senior Airman Jon Eager, 35th Security Forces dog handler, and Airman 1st Class Tyler McHugh, who works in the 35 SFS Misawa armory, changed up their regular duties to provide flight line security for the visiting F-16s.

"I think it's great we can show up with thousands and thousands pounds of gear, almost 100 people, and be ready go without much warning," said McHugh. "Being able to work with the JASDF and make headroom with that relationship says a lot about the capability of our Air Force."

As part of PACAF, the 35 FW's mission is suppression of air enemy defense, which is commonly referred to as the mission of the Wild Weasels. It's a force that's been ready at the drop of a hat since arriving at Misawa nearly 20 years ago. In order to keep their F-16s the fittest fighters on the planet, it takes contributions from every part of the team.

"As a flight line maintainer, we're for the most part consistently on temporary duties or deploying, so the mindset is always there," said Staff Sgt. Pablo Jimenez, 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "There's not a lot of switchover, so we're always prepared."

Jimenez has been a part of more than 10 missions that have temporarily taken him away from his home station. He said while operations like this - his second stint to Chitose AB -- provide a chance for pilots to experience new training, it's business as usual for maintainers. The numbers speak for themselves.

The 35th Operations Group at Misawa has successfully flown more than 30,000 sortie missions in the past five years. Effective missions like the trip here go to show why PACAF's area of responsibility extends more than 100 million square miles and spans across nearly 50 countries.

"Every day, what we do is serious - it's real life," said Jimenez, a 10-year veteran. "Nothing changes regardless of where we are across the world."

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