by Staff Sgt. Derek VanHorn
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
3/12/2015 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The
35th Fighter Wing reached out to an unlikely source to help support a
week-long operational readiness exercise that wrapped up here March 5.
Misawa needed to transport dozens of Airmen to the Republic of Korea in
support of the exercise, but lacked airlift transportation. Nearly 2,000
miles away at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, the majority of Pacific
Air Force's airlift assets were heavily involved in COPE NORTH 15, a
massive exercise featuring about 50 aircraft from multiple nations.
While Misawa's F-16 Fighting Falcons are equipped to fight, they are not
equipped to transport.
That's where California Air National Guard came in.
Back at PACAF headquarters at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii,
members of the 613th Air Operations Center jumped into action by
contacting Air National Guard and Reserve units on the west coast of the
U.S. asking who had the capability to support. The Air National Guard's
146th Airlift Wing out of Channel Islands, California, responded to the
call by offering up two C-130J Hercules from their 115th Airlift
Squadron to ensure the mission happened.
PACAF bases typically interact with each other during unit level
exercises, and bringing a guard unit from the U.S. to support one was
previously unheard of.
"This was a huge shift in thinking of who we can use in local
exercises," said Lt. Col. Kevin Lord, 35th FW inspector general, who
coordinated Misawa's aspect of the operation. "It's awesome to have the
total force capability when we need it."
It took some remarkable background work to make the mission happen,
including PACAF funding military personnel appropriation days for the
guard unit and the 35th FW covering the crews' per diem and lodging
costs. The trip essentially cost as much as it would have to support any
local PACAF crew, while offering up rare, invaluable experience.
Preparation time was also cut dramatically for the California crew, and
Lt. Col. Chris Dougherty, 115th AS director of operations, said they
were only allotted two weeks instead of the usual six months of prep
time for a deployment. He said many guard members work separate fulltime
jobs, and it can be tough getting time off in such short notice.
"You have to have a willing unit who wants to participate, making it
beneficial to everyone," Lord said. "Without them stepping up, our
exercise couldn't have happened."
Along with common logistics associated with flying operations, a few
hurdles needed to be jumped to make the mission a success. Because
Misawa isn't accustomed to preparing loads with C-130Js, Dougherty's
team needed to develop full load plans with the 35th Logistics Readiness
"Every deployment or movement we have out of Misawa has its own special
quirks and challenges," said Tech. Sgt. Letitia Nuelken, who oversaw the
35th LRS deployment process. "It's important to work between active
duty and the Air National Guard; we get to see how our stateside
counterparts operate and they get to see how our wing operates in
In December, Misawa carried out exercise Beverly Sunrise 15-1, a
full-scale exercise that actually deployed Airmen to the Republic of
Korea and allowed Misawa Airmen who stayed back to employ their wartime
efforts from home. Aircraft from multiple PACAF bases flew crews
throughout Asia, creating a robust and new way of exercising.
Previously, the entire base simulated a deployment and never physically
left the home station.
Thanks to the support from PACAF and the California ANG, Misawa was able
to maintain the standard as they teamed up with the 51st Fighter Wing
in Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, who exercised alongside them in
this ORE, Beverly Sunrise 15-2.
They took the training a step further this time around, and on their
flight back from Osan to Misawa, the ANG crew took the opportunity to
execute an on-the-fly aeromedical evacuation exercise with the 35th
Medical Group and medics from Kadena Air Base, Japan. Dozens of Misawa
medics awaited their arrival and quickly transported groups of simulated
patients from the back of the aircraft onto awaiting buses before
rushing them to the base hospital.
It was the first time Misawa has ever exercised a C-130 medical
evacuation, and Capt. Mike Bernabe, 35th MDG readiness flight chief,
said the true challenge was not knowing exactly what to expect.
"Our flexibility was tested," Bernabe said, citing unfamiliar aircraft
structure and manual patient offloading. "But, it was the perfect
scenario for what we would face in a real-world situation. After seeing
our professionals in action, there's no doubt patients are going to
receive top care when coming to Misawa."
Bernabe said the 35th MDG approached the exercise focused on hitting
main objectives, including pre-deployment support, overarching
aeromedical support, maintaining local care and effective posture for
follow-on patients from deployed locations -- largely made possible by
"Hats off to the Air National Guard team for their role in this
process," Bernabe said. "They were up to the challenge and provided us
with everything we could have asked for."
For many ANG crew members, it was the first time they've been any further west than Guam.
"I don't know if I'd call it a typical operation," said Maj. Tim
Greenler, C-130J pilot with the 115th AS. "In an exercise of this scale,
we're just one of the many moving parts and they all have to work
By all estimations, things worked smoothly -- both sides emphasized the
desire to work together in the future if ever called upon.
"A big takeaway for us was having these 20-year guardsmen -- who were
extremely experienced and well-versed - highlight our strengths and
weaknesses," Lord said. "Having these pros around was huge in setting us
up for success in the future."
Lord also said it's a great opportunity for the ANG to get their foot in
the door on experiencing major PACAF combat operations, as they would
almost certainly be called on in a real-world situation.
"This exercise really showed how valuable every entity is to the total
force," he said. "Anytime you have the opportunity to integrate multiple
assets, you capitalize. It shows what we're capable of as an Air