Total Force Integration in the Pacific makes history with Hawai‘i’s largest airdrop
Joint Forces from across the United States and the Pacific participated in a large-scale joint training exercise Nov. 1-10 that included the largest airdrop in Hawai‘i history.
The Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center rotation is a large-scale training exercise that enables collaboration between 5,300 Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard members from across the U.S. Joint Forces, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Indonesia and Thailand.
The Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center is the U.S. Army Pacific’s first-ever Regional Combat Training Center in the Indo-Pacific and the Army’s first Combat Training Center established by the U.S. Army in over 50 years.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Alex Sakovich, 15th Wing Operations Support Squadron, the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center lead planner, elaborated on the Air Force’s role from the planning side since last year’s exercise.
“It all started as an on island partnership with the 25th Infantry Division that has grown in recent years,” said Sakovich. “Throughout the year, we began to execute local training sorties to move their equipment across the islands. With U.S. Army General Charles Flynn’s vision and the Division’s need to train and operate across island archipelagos, the pairing made perfect sense. Being on-island partners allowed us to build direct personal relationships between our leadership and theirs. Consequently, the 15th Wing and 154th Wing became their liaison into the Air Mobility community.”
Airlift Squadrons from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawai‘i, partnered with several U.S. Joint partners from Alaska, California and Arkansas for the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center to coordinate the necessary logistics and airlift movement.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Evan Kurosu, 204th Airlift Squadron, Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center deputy planner, elaborates on the Air Force’s role in providing the necessary support.
“Our aircraft is always supporting someone and working with the Army requires different implementation and coordination, understanding what they need, and their priorities,” said Kurosu. “Airlift logistics is important because funding and focus is usually on weapons, but sometimes what’s missing is ‘how do we get stuff out there?’”.
The training plays a vital role in projecting dominance of large formation Joint Forcible Entry Operations in the Pacific Theater and showcases Total Force Integration capabilities on the world stage. The Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center prepares the joint force to interoperate in the United States Indo-Pacific Command Area of Responsibility and tackle the Agile Combat Employment objectives in an archipelago flight.
Planning initiative and strategy were led by the 15th Wing with leadership support from the 204th Airlift Squadron helping to organize and execute the components coming together.
In total, planning for the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center took nine months of coordination between the 535th and 204th Airlift squadrons alongside several U.S. Joint and international partners including the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, 15th Wing Maintenance Group, 517th Airlift Squadron, 729th Airlift Squadron, 41st Airlift Squadron 36th Airlift Squadron, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 268, No. 36 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force, No. 40 Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the 436 Transport Squadron Royal Canadian Air Force.
The two-week training exercise set many landmarks including achieving the largest airdrop in Hawai‘i with 16 aircraft delivering 966 paratroopers and 1.8 million pounds of cargo, the first mass personnel airdrop into Hawaii which included 458 jumpers from 8 aircraft, and the first back-to-back airdrop operations from 11th Airborne Division Soldiers.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Michael Hank, 204 Airlift Squadron chief of tactics and lead upgrade instructor for the Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center, praised the perseverance of all parties involved.
“This exercise was the largest homegrown Mobility Air Forces exercise that the 154th Wing and 15th Wing has ever hosted, featuring 29 aircraft and 148 sorties with aerial participation from the Active Duty Air Force, Army National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command, and the U.S. Marine Corps.” said Hank. “This is the first time something like this has happened on this scale.”
With many units spread throughout the Pacific collaborating together, Total Force Integration and communication were paramount in order to succeed. Sakovich details how an exercise of this scale came together.
“Communication was critical throughout the planning and execution,” said Sakovich. “JPMRC [Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center] spanned the entire Pacific. We had C-130s helping us plan from Japan. We had the C-130 lead out in Little Rock, Arkansas. We had the Contingency Response Team out over in New Jersey along with the Air Mobility Operations Squadron. We had U.S. Air Force Major Keely Mahan at March Air Reserve Base leading the airborne operation planning there in addition to the Alaska team. Tying all these people across 12 different time zones made communication critical.”
U.S. Air Force Maj. Keely Mahan, 729th Airlift Squadron Air Mission company commander for March ARB, spoke on what it meant to have the support of everyone working together.
“We are an airland squadron that rarely has opportunities to train to this level of threat and integration due to not being able to participate in airdrop exercises. This was a tremendous and very unique opportunity for our squadron,” said Mahan. “Our team overcame many communication and coordination hurdles by using ingenuity, quick thinking and the Mission Type Orders methodology in planning.”
Training scenarios took place across several locations on O‘ahu including Dillingham Airfield, Wheeler Airfield, Schofield Barracks, Helemano Military Reservation, Bellows Air Force Station, Kahuku Training Area, and the Kawailoa Mountain Ranges, as well as the Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawai‘i Island.
Hawai‘i’s diverse climate amplified training scenarios by providing complex, rugged, austere, and jungle and archipelago conditions that replicate real-world conditions where our forces may be called to operate during crisis or conflict.
The dynamic perseverance amongst the service members was a praise shared among leadership, which served as an inspiration highlighting how each of the service members contributed to the success of the mission. Participants also learned how to plan more efficiently during the training, identifying some of what could be their limiting factors, and how to efficiently plan for future missions.
Without the full effort from all service members, none of these historic firsts would have been possible. The collective achievement is a reflection of the hard work from all parties’ efforts, as reflected by Hank.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” said Hank. “Its applicability not only applies to teamwork among all wings and organizations, but also highlights the inherent value of the Total Force Construct. This was a true testament to the hard work and determination that all of the members from all of the organizations put in to see its success.”