by Senior Airman Christopher Reel
1st Combat Camera Squadron
11/10/2015 - ZARAGOZA, Spain -- Multiple
18th Air Force units worked together to perform a personnel drop of
more than 500 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers in support of Exercise
Ultimate Reach, Nov. 2 - 7, a subsection of NATO's largest exercise in
20 years, Exercise Trident Juncture.
Ultimate Reach is an annual U.S. Transportation Command-sponsored
live-fly exercise designed to evaluate 18th Air Force's transportation
units' ability to plan and conduct strategic airdrop missions.
This year's Ultimate Reach consisted of a fleet of seven C-17
Globemaster III aircraft and eight KC-10 Extenders to move the airborne
division members to a drop zone in Zaragoza, Spain.
The C-17s from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, Joint Base
Lewis-McChord, Washington, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, took off
from Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, Nov. 3, and flew through the
night to Zaragoza, Spain. Once over the drop zone, the 82nd Airborne
Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team conducted a Joint Forcible Entry
exercise in front an international audience of military leadership,
dignitaries and media.
The exercise demonstrates 18th Air Force's ability to move forces and
equipment anywhere on earth in a matter of hours, which is instrumental
to the collective defense of NATO and other partner nations.
"As with TRANSCOM, Air Mobility Command and the United States, we have a
responsibility to NATO and to use this exercise as an opportunity to
train with our NATO allies," said Capt. Chris Mahan, C-17 aircraft
commander. "Missions like this create that interoperability with our
allies and sister services."
In order to make the trip without stopping, KC-10 Extender tankers from
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and Travis Air Force Base,
California, refueled the C-17s on the way to Europe and on their return
"Without us, other aircraft with less fuel capacity will have to land
and refuel more often," said Airman 1st Class Amy James, 32nd Air
Refueling Squadron boom operator. "We enable worldwide missions to be
completed more efficiently."
Eight tankers met with the C-17s over the North Atlantic Ocean in the
middle of the night. Maj. Mitch Ehresman, 305th Air Mobility Wing
current operations flight chief, said this capability allows them to
support combatant commanders throughout the world by helping get the
assets they need into theater as quickly as possible.
"It all comes down to time and range," he said. "Without our fuel
supply, C-17s couldn't go directly to Spain and fighters would have much
more limited time dropping ordnance downrange before landing to
America's Global Response Force provides combatant commanders with
critical options to respond to international crises, but cannot do so
without trained and validated support from its joint Air Force partners.
This exercise is another example of this constant training.
"We provide and posture rapid mobility forces for things like this
global response force and move the Army anywhere in the world at any
time," Mahan said. "Training like this is extremely important. For us to
provide a direct-delivery sortie halfway around the globe without
stopping is quite impressive. It's something we don't get to exercise
very often, but days like this we can not only do that but succeed in
The overall mission was coordinated from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois,
at the 618th Air Operations Center. The 618th AOC is 18th AF's
execution arm, providing the Air Force's global reach. It plans,
schedules, directs and assesses a fleet of nearly 1,100 mobility
aircraft in support of combat delivery and strategic airlift, air
refueling and aeromedical evacuation operations around the world.
For Ultimate Reach, the 618th AOC acted as the command and control
authority for the C-17s and KC-10s. The AOC coordinated with the
operations centers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Joint Base
McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and communicated mission changes with the aircraft
formations via secure satellite links. Additional coordination was
required with the 603rd Air Operations Center's Air Mobility Division in
Germany and the NATO Combined Air Operation Center Torrejon in Madrid,
"There's a lot of effort that goes into coordinating all the details
needed to make missions like these successful," said Maj. Nate Padgett,
the lead exercise liaison for the AOC. "For major exercises, a big piece
of the planning process is to ensure the seams between the operators
and command element are tied-up. Key components, that don't come up in
stateside missions, are things like obtaining diplomatic clearances,
ensuring there's enough, and the right type of, ground support at the
final destination, and solving how to communicate securely with aircraft
while they're over the ocean. Any one of these seemingly small
considerations could derail the entire mission, and we handle all of
NATO's Trident Juncture and 18th Air Force's Ultimate Reach demonstrates
NATO allies' interoperability and global response. The 2016 NATO
Response Force certification exercise consists of more than 36,000
troops from more than 35 NATO allied nations.
"In addition to Air Mobility Command, Pacific Command also assisted in
this global reach," said Captain Dan Naske, Ultimate Reach lead Air
Force planner. "Ultimate Reach truly is a great opportunity to showcase
our ability to have global reach across the world and show NATO that we
are there to support them."
Eighteenth Air Force is responsible for carrying out Air Mobility
Command's operational air mobility mission. Since 9/11, AMC and 18th Air
Force, with a mission to deliver hope, fuel and the fight and save
lives, have moved more than 22.7 million passengers, 2.7 billion gallons
of fuel and 229,000 patients.