By Senior Airman David Owsianka, 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs / Published November 14, 2015
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- Members of the 374th Airlift Wing participated in exercise Vigilant Ace 16 from Nov. 1-10, in conjunction with a Samurai Readiness Inspection at Yokota Air Base.
Vigilant Ace is a large-scale exercise on the Korean Peninsula designed to enhance the interoperability of U.S. and allied forces through combined combat training.
Part of Yokota's mission is to be ready for any type of contingency, and exercises ensure the base is prepared to complete its mission.
"Our airlifters brought Yokota's unique and highly skilled air drop capabilities to this strategic exercise," said Col. Douglas DeLaMater, the 374th AW commander. "The training allowed us to perform our own readiness inspections to test and enhance specific wartime mission capabilities."
As the western Pacific mobility hub, Yokota received and redeployed forces in support of the exercise and performed local tactical training with the C-130 Hercules. Yokota's ability to accept follow-on forces is a vital strategic capability to U.S. forces and allies in any future contingency, which was tested during the exercise.
The 374th AW worked alongside their Air National Guard teammates and conducted 75 missions, generated 186 sorties totaling over 500 flying hours to move more than 776,000 pounds, including 205 pallets and over 1,200 passengers.
One of the key technological advantages the Air Force has over potential adversaries is the ability to operate effectively at night, and Yokota's participation in Vigilant Ace gave Yokota's Airmen the ability to utilize that capability during realistic training scenarios.
"Our night capabilities must be practiced on occasion to ensure they are a realistic deterrent to antagonistic behavior," said Maj. Mark Nexon, the 374th Airlift Squadron assistant director of operations. "This also allows further training for night operations in support of humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions in Japan and the entire Indo-Asia Pacific region."
While the aircraft completed missions, maintainers worked tirelessly around-the-clock to generate aircraft. Maintainers with the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron ensured the aircraft were ready to successfully perform operations.
"It feels good to strenuously work alongside fellow maintainers to help ensure pilots are able to fly their sorties," said Airman 1st Class Austin Brill, a 374th AMXS aircraft hydraulic systems journeyman. "This helps us gain experience on what it's like to generate sorties and ensuring the aircraft are in top shape for missions."
In addition to turning aircraft and flying missions, other Yokota members trained and practiced skillsets to ensure the base is ready to respond to potential real-world contingencies.
Medical personnel participated in a mass casualty exercise, giving them a chance to practice a variety of treatments on more than 20 mock victims. The training also included a full hospital expansion to facilitate those personnel.
"The training was important because it helps ensure that each medic is trained to respond and execute patient evacuation in the area of operation and support our mission here," said Tech. Sgt. Michelle Mickens, the 374th Surgical Operations Squadron otolaryngology clinic NCO in charge. "Having the training as realistic as possible helps us strengthen our ability to swiftly respond to potential contingencies in the future."
Vigilant Ace also allowed Yokota Airmen to improve their operational ability alongside service members from other bases.
"This was a great opportunity for us to work together as one multi-base team focused on a common goal of preparing for potential contingencies or humanitarian relief operations," Nexon said. "The exercise also helped us validate each individual unit's ability to operate together at Yokota."
Overall, the unique exercise was a successful test of Yokota's ability to provide airlift throughout the Indo-Asia Pacific region, according to DeLaMater.
"Yokota played a vital role over the course of the exercise as we built the air bridge that allowed forces to arrive in theater and then forward deploy to the Korean Peninsula during this realistic training scenario," DeLaMater said.