Air Force Assists Army In Sub-Zero Training
by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Spalding
Working outside in 40 degrees below zero isn’t something a person
generally thinks of doing, at some point, the numbers start to lose
value and cold is just plain cold. But that didn’t stop the U.S.
Army and Air Force from what they do every year for Exercise Arctic
Primed with extreme cold-weather gear, a
mind-over-matter tenacity and a varsity mentality, over 25 aircrew
members assigned to the 374th Airlift Wing boarded four C-130J Super
Hercules and short-notice deployed from Yokota Air Base, Japan, to
support the more than 500 paratroopers of the 3rd Battalion, 509th
Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team
(Airborne), 25th Infantry Division (Spartan Brigade) for Exercise
Arctic Warrior 21, at Donnelly Training Area, Alaska on February 8,
AW 21 is an exercise helping Soldiers and Airmen develop
and refine the tactics, techniques, and procedures necessary to
successfully operate in remote and extreme cold conditions and
overcome both environmental and military challenges.
exercise demonstrates the effectiveness of our Arctic training and
ability to face a near-peer threat in an Arctic environment, “said
U.S. Army Col. Chris Landers, Spartan Brigade commander. “Our
Paratroopers are trained to deploy on short notice and operate
effectively in the deep Alaskan winter.”
On the morning of
execution, the 374th AW aircrew threw on their extreme cold weather
gear and stepped onto the flightline to begin a long and cold day.
February 8, 2021 - U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Luke Smeltzer, 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, conducts pre-flight checks on a C-130J Super Hercules during execution day for exercise Arctic Warrior 21 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AK. While operating under cold weather conditions, extra checks are needed to be done, to include running auxiliary power unit early to get the aircraft warmed up so the oil can run through the engines efficiently, ensuring the longevity of the engines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Spalding)
Crew chiefs were the first to show, next were the
loadmasters and then came the pilots ... each crew conducting their
specific pre-flight and loading procedures.
take-off, we have to go through a series of pre-flight checks like
getting rid of any ice from the aircraft so it doesn’t have any
aerodynamic issues, setting up for unapproved runway landings,
starting the auxiliary power unit and preheating the engines,” said
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Josh Aleshire, 374th Aircraft Maintenance
Squadron flying crew chief instructor. “It takes a lot of time for
certain steps while working under cold weather conditions, and since
oil is the life-blood of the engines, preheating the engines keeps
them running properly and secures their longevity. All of these
measures guarantee the reliability of the Yokota airlift mission.”
As the pilots and crew chiefs were finalizing their checks,
loadmasters were working with Spartan Brigade leadership to safely
load the more than 500 paratroopers onto each aircraft.
Executing an exercise like AW 21 from the air requires a wide scope
of expertise and capability to safely conduct personnel drops and
landing operations under arctic winter conditions.
C-130s fly around the flagpole performing local training at Yokota,
we're getting the basics down so that when we get called to perform
more challenging missions such as AW 21 we can be as ready as
possible,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. David Ince, 36th Airlift
Squadron pilot and Air Force mission commander for AW 21. “Arctic
Warrior is unique in that it tests the Arctic airdrop and
sustainment objectives in a way that wouldn't be possible without
tactical airlift assets. The 36th was tasked to support this mission
all the way from Japan because we are PACAF's premier tactical
As they converged on the drop zone, the
four C-130s got into formation, preparing for the final approach to
the drop zone. The paratroop doors opened, and subzero temperatures
invaded the cargo bay. The greenlight was called to the jumpmasters
and over 90 paratroopers jumped into the freezing arctic skies over
Donnelly Training Area.
What was their mission? To ensure
the nearby Air Strip was clear for the C-130s to safely land.
The freezing, snow-covered landscape neared as the C-130s
approached the remote landing zone. As the pilots landed their
aircraft, dirt and snow kicked up, creating a cloud that trailed the
C-130s until they slowed to a stop.
The cargo doors opened
and 300 paratroopers – eyes wide with adrenaline – shrugged their
more than 50-pound ruck sacks higher onto their backs and headed out
into the blistering cold temperatures to begin the 10-day exercise.
February 8, 2021 - U.S.
Army paratroopers, assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade
Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division (Spartan
Brigade), board a C-130J Super Hercules, assigned to the
36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, during
exercise Arctic Warrior 21 at Joint Base
Elmendorf-Richardson, AK. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Spalding)
Arctic Warrior depends on joint and multinational partners to
succeed. From multiple supporting Army units, to Air Force crews, to
Canadian partners on the ground, AW 21 allowed the opportunity for
lines of communication and long-term relationships to be established
in preparation for future contingencies and operations.
“We're a mobility platform; flying around the Pacific and performing
tactical airlift is what we do best,” said Ince. “I'm very proud of
how our team performed; even in the face of COVID-19 and a unique
arctic tactical problem, we were able to launch a four-ship of
C-130s a quarter of the way around the world with only a few days
notice and then support a challenging Arctic Joint Forcible Entry
U.S. Army paratroopers, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 509th parachute infantry regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division jump out of a C-130J Super Hercules, assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, as part of exercise Arctic Warrior 21 at Donnelly Training Area, AK. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Spalding)
The U.S. military’s number one priority
is readiness. It takes practice to be proficient at deploying
battalion-sized units while working cohesively with joint forces
with little or no time to plan and coordinate.
In Alaska, it
is essential that exercises like Arctic Warrior are conducted during
the harsher conditions prevalent in winter to improve systems and
procedures which validate that the U.S. Army and Air Force are, in
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