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US Air Force Academy grad enhanced interoperability at COPE North 20

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col Tamara Fischer-Carter
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs

US Air Force 2d Lt Megan Barrick is one of the approximately 2,000 military personnel that honed their skills to increase combat readiness and interoperability during the annual trilateral field training exercise of COPE NORTH 2020, Feb.12-28. Barrick is a Materiel Flight Commander for the 36th Munitions Squadron (MUNS) at Andersen AFB, Guam.

Barrick is charged with leading over 80 Airmen in their every-day operations involved with munitions.

“My days consist of mentoring airmen and handling administrative duties,” Barrick said. “Essentially, I am here to make my airmen’s lives easier, while making sure we can still accomplish the mission.”

This selfless service and camaraderie is something she learned while at the United States Air Force Academy. She is a 2018 graduate of Cadet Squadron 39 and competed on the Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teams while there. She says her biggest take away from the Academy was learning how to deal with people and working with people from across various backgrounds.

More than 100 aircraft flew over and around Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia as US forces, Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) and the Royal Australian Air Force collaborated during the exercise.

“COPE North is a busy time of year not only for the flightline but for 36 MUNS as well,” said Barrick. “We are supporting and embedding eight different units from across the US Air Force, US Navy (USN), US Marine Corps (USMC), and foreign services (Korea, Japan, and Australia).”

Each unit brings personnel with them who work out of MUNS, so there are a lot of moving pieces.

“Within my day-to-day job, I am in charge of the materiel side of the house which means storing, accounting, inspecting and handling all of the munitions that come in and out of the Munitions Storage Area (MSA).”

Andersen’s stockpile is currently worth $1.7 billion, and is also a strong contributing factor as to why Andersen is such an ideal staging ground for COPE North.

“The visiting USAF units essentially request to use our munitions to support their training,” Barrick said. “The other visiting units (USN, USMC, foreign services) also bring their own munitions. We help them store their assets and provide them the tools and facilities to do what they need to do.”

Not only are there a multitude of members from various units, there are a lot of munitions moving, from chaff and flare to bombs and missiles. Teams faced various challenges during the 17-day event by focusing on integrating and refining best practices for coordinating combined air tactics, techniques and procedures.

She highlights that each unit brings with them a different perspective and insight.

“Because Andersen does not have permanently assigned aircraft, a lot of my airmen do not get much interaction with a flightline or supporting aircraft,” said Barrick. “Through this, they are able to see what the majority of their career field does. Not only that, but it is not a common opportunity to see fighters, bombers, and foreign units all working together from one staging ground. So not only does this exercise give my airmen a chance to interact with people across their career field from different missions, but they also get to interact with other branches and foreign services who run operations differently than we do.”

The first COPE North took place in 1978 and has become a long-standing exercise designed to strengthen relationships in the Indo-Pacific region through air operations, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief training to enhance interoperability.

“While it is busy, I really do enjoy the unique opportunity that COPE North brings.” Barrick added, “Naturally, we are here to support the flight line and the interoperability between services and countries, but there are many more benefits to this massive operation.”