by Air Force Staff Sgt. Wes Wright
JBER Public Affairs
5/14/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- It
was 2 p.m. April 30 as a four-vehicle Army convoy rolled out of its
forward operating base to deliver a high value target to a secure
location. Any convoy in a deployed environment can be a dicey affair,
but this one in particular had personnel on high alert.
From a hidden knoll in the distance, a terrorist watched as the convoy
approached a carefully hidden improvised explosive device. He let the
first vehicle pass before detonating the device. Reacting with practiced
precision, Army personnel went into their defensive positions as the
enemy opened up with small arms fire. Medics
began treating the injured as infantrymen established security, but it soon became
clear one of those priorities was going to suffer if they couldn't get out of there fast.
High overhead, a C-130 Hercules was circling with a contingent of highly
trained Air Force pararescuemen. Within minutes of their Army brothers
being pinned down, the PJs were free falling through the air, tactically
deploying as close to the action as possible. Upon arrival, they were
met with the chaos of war.
A smoky haze obscured the battlefield and the staccato of gunfire could be heard as bullets began whizzing by their position.
Fortunately, the bullets clipping tree branches around them were
simulated munitions and the scenario was a training exercise on
rangeland at Joint Base
Elmendorf-Richardson designed to integrate the Army and Air Force's combat asualty
"This was an opportunity to do a number of things," said Tech Sgt.
Benjamin Westveer, 212th Rescue Squadron survival, evasion, resistance
and escape pecialist.
"We wanted to get to understand the Army and how they work. This is the
first time we've done this with them. The secondary part is those are
the types of people the rescue squadron would actually recover in the
deployed environment. It was a good
opportunity to see how the Army operates," Westveer said.
Staff Sgt. Sonny Carlos, 212th RS pararescuman, was one of the PJs to get to experience the joint training.
When we got there, it was chaos, as usual," Carlos said. "That's what war is: chaos,
but you try to control it. Imagine yourself in an environment where a close friend has
been blown up. Your mind is not correct. That's what we're there for...to try to help
with that. Everybody in the military naturally wants to help and do
what's right, but it can be difficult in those circumstances." After
infiltrating and establishing their position, the PJs, under the
direction of their team leader, quickly formulated a plan and began to
"Our first priority was determining a total number of patients to make
sure we're not missing anyone," Carlos said. "Once we had that, we
worked on getting them all to a casualty collection point."
Westveer led a team of opposition forces designed to test the mettle of joint servicemembers.
He and his team waited until the PJs were treating patients before
opening fire from concealed vantage points with simulated munitions.
"Once we started taking fire, our immediate focus changed to returning
fire," Carlos said. "That's how you're going to save lives: take over
the objective and make sure you own it, so that way you're not going to
be picking up a patient and then get shot in the back." With the Army
personnel and PJs working in tandem to repel the ground attack,
Westveer's team found their combined skill a force to be reckoned with.
"I never heard anybody lose their head when we attacked them," Westveer
said. "They didn't lose control. They stayed with the situation and
pushed us out and made the right calls. It as difficult to engage them
directly. I know I got hit with several sim rounds, which is exactly
what we hoped would happen."
Army 2nd Lt. David Hildon, leader of the evacuation Platoon of C
Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), 4th Infantry
Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army
Alaska, saw the training as invaluable for his Soldiers.
"Coming in, we knew what the PJs did in broad terms, but in terms of
integrating tactics, techniques and procedures, we were able to practice
those technical things that will ultimately be key to saving lives,"
While the exercise went smoothly, there were also some lessons learned, Westveer said.
"We learned some communications issues and how to make sure we prep
better," he said. "That's exactly why we're doing this. We're doing it
so we can understand each other's limiting factors and how to overcome
Running into cross-service challenges during the exercise was something Hildon expected his Soldiers to face.
"It's good to practice these things now before it happens in real life,"
Hildon said. "There were some hiccups, but we expected that. Normally,
in the Army, we use a crawl, walk, run methodology.
"These guys, special operations, they're already running. We're good at
what we do; however, we haven't worked with them in an environment like
this. We all learned quite a bit and that's the whole point."
According to Carlos, the joint training is critical because it's functional.
"How do we work? How do they work? What do we do differently?" Carlos
said. "Maybe they have something they do better than we do or vice
versa. Each branch is always trying to achieve that goal of bettering
themselves and being better than the enemy. Seeing different
perspectives is a huge help." Both services came away from the fight
feeling better prepared
for real world application of integrated TTPs, and each had nothing but positive words on the other's behalf.
"The more you practice, the more you realize the importance of practice
as you learn lessons along the way," Hildon said. "We're grateful for
the opportunity to train with them and I'm really proud of my guys and
the great job they did."
Carlos had equally high praise for the Soldiers.
"Everybody takes their job seriously," Carlos said. "Working with them,
we expect their top performance and that's what's given. I thought it
went very well."
While this was the first time this type of exercise has happened on
JBER, Westveer, one of the event organizers, said it won't be the last.
"It was phenomenal," Westveer said. "It's become much more critical as
drawdowns happen in the active duty and [National] Guard. We have to
cover each other more. We are different branches and operated
differently, which is alright, but we need to understand how each other
"This is the type of thing we need to keep doing, pushing for that joint
integration, training with each other. We have great opportunities at
this joint base to accomplish that," Westveer said.