Military News

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

37 AS, 435th CRG support Saber Strike 15

by Staff Sgt. Armando A. Schwier-Morales
U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

6/17/2015 - RIGA, Latvia -- Two units out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, working side by side are able to complete a variety of missions. During exercise Saber Strike 15 they were able to showcase their capabilities in and around the Baltic region June 10 through 18.

Airmen from the 86th Airlift Wing and 435th Air Ground Operations Wing were afforded training opportunities to complete three unique missions during the exercise. They took off from Riga International Airport and assess and secure a strip of land thousands of miles away, landed on that field, drop cargo for a variety of purposes and then brought joint and multinational friends along for some personnel jumps.

"We are able to really work together and accomplish the Saber Strike objectives and everything seemed to work relatively seamlessly," said Capt. Mark Wilson, 37th Airlift Squadron aircraft commander.

Saber Strike 15 is a multinational exercise with more than 6,000 participants and 13 nations designed to improve each others processes, methods, build partnerships and promote stability in the Baltic area.

During the exercise, Airmen from the 435th Security Forces Squadron parachuted out of a C-130J Super Hercules, belonging to the 86th AW, and established an expeditionary airfield in Estonia. This event is normally something they cannot do at home station due to airspace restrictions.

"(Saber Strike) gives us a good chance to practice with the 435th CRG and their airfield seizure team ... and that's an opportunity that we definitely don't have in Germany," said Wilson.

The 435th Contingency Response Group, parent unit of the 435th SFS, is comprised of 42 career fields and is the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa's only force capable of establishing contingency airfield operations and initial command and control.

"Saber Strike is a huge verification of CRG capability, to jump out of an aircraft, assess the fields, secure the field and have follow on aircraft land," said Maj. Joey Lubbers, 435th AGOW director of staff.

After the 435th AGOW secured the airfield the 37th AS tested their ability to conduct austere landing in the middle of a grass field. After completing the landing and taking off safely from Estonia they loaded up with cargo and dropped necessary supplies to Washington Air National Guard joint terminal attack controllers in Latvia. They were also escorted by Maryland Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolts II and performed simulated drops.

"We brought the mobility air forces to the fight," said Wilson. "We were able to work with the ANG units, with different JTACs, and with the host nation members of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. It was a great exercise to strengthen our interoperability."

After exercising their capabilities both units took to the skies again this time with more than 70 U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and Latvian service members for a jump day event.

"It's a NATO building partnership event we get a lot of good training out of it," said Lubbers. "We get to show them how we operate. How we jump from the C-130 aircraft and the CRG is providing the jumpmaster for that. Its just a great partnership opportunity for us to get drops together here in Latvia and work with our NATO allies."

The two units time in Latvia and Saber Strike came to an end quickly but both Lubbers and Wilson are grateful for the lessons the 435th AGOW and 37th AS were able to give and take from their NATO allies as they help build interoperability and ensure a stable Baltic region.

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