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Air Force, Navy train together in Guam CSAR exercise

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Redente
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Airmen assigned to the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 Sailors trained together Aug. 17 and 18 in a joint exercise at the Pacific Air Forces Regional Training Center here. 

The Airmen, deployed here from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., to support U.S. Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence in the Asia-Pacific region, used the opportunity to work with the Navy in a joint environment to better acquaint themselves with combat search and rescue, or CSAR, tactics. 

" The B-52 [Stratofortress] doesn't normally conduct combat search and rescue operations," said 1st Lt. Michael Hansen, 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron navigator. 

"It was a learning process for us, and we worked hand-in-hand with the Navy to create a scenario that would be beneficial for both parties. This was a great opportunity for us to work together and have a good learning process for the B-52 [crews] and provide additional training to the Navy as well." 

Lieutenant Hansen was the B-52 unit lead who worked with the Navy on creating a scenario that would allow bombers to gain experience in CSAR on scene commander duties and other support actions. 

"It is always cool to work with other units and even more special when you get to work in a joint environment," he said. 

The lieutenant said there were several planning sessions before the training session actually took place. 

"Working in the joint world is something that we are always trying to push, and it's always a privilege to be able to do it," Lieutenant Hansen said. "There are always going to be learning and growing pains when you are working with a new organization, but the more practice we get, the easier it will be when it when its used in a real world scenario. 

"In the first couple of meetings, we had to decide what protocols were going to be used since each branch of service has their own. All and all, I think the training was a great success." 

The scenario began with three B-52s returning to Andersen AFB after conducting a planned mission. Before reaching Andersen, the aircraft were tasked to be the on-scene commander for for the search for a simulated downed aircrew. 

The B-52s proceeded to set up orbits at 25,000 feet above the location, and established roles for each jet as the Navy helicopters were scrambled. 

Capt. Jeff Morris, 96th EBS weapons and tactics phase manager officer in charge, was delegated as the airborne on scene commander. 

"We made initial contact with [the Navy helicopter squadron]," Captain Morris said. "From that point, we were basically the focal point for gathering information and contacting the survivors. The B-52s role is to provide top cover with our targeting pod, search the area for any hostile enemy, and prosecute any targets to protect the rescue forces." 

The airborne on scene commander was also responsible for advising a threat-free route for the MH-60 Knighthawks and maintaining a communication conduit between the survivors on the ground and Sailors in the helicopters. 

"A major part of the mission for us was the communication piece and coordinating with all the different forces, whether they were the joint terminal air controllers, the other B-52s, survivors or other rescue forces," Captain Morris said. 

While there are some joint publications used to assist Airmen and Sailors in completing a mission in a joint environment, being able to exercise the guidance and work together provided the Airmen in the bomb squadron a great experience, Captain Morris said. 

"Even at the base level the Navy and Air Force have completely different tactics, so it was really a great learning experience for us," Captain Morris said. "We do have some joint publications to help us, but putting those two pieces together was what it was all about. I had personally never done that before, and it was invaluable training for me, as well as the squadron as a whole." 

The different services have a variety of terminology used with different meanings, but both fixed and rotary winged aircraft were able to overcome the differences, the captain said. 

"Essentially we all had the same mission, and although we had our different ways of adding to the equation to get the job done, we were very successful in coming together and making that happen," he said. 

After being scrambled, the crews on the two MH-60s worked with the B-52 aircrews to choose a route to pick up the Airmen participating as survivors and then evacuate them safely out of the area. 

"I think it was a great training experience for all involved," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Pickard, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 training officer. "It isn't often the Navy gets to work with bombers, and we look forward to any other opportunities to train with the 96th EBS before they redeploy." 

Members of the Navy also participated on the ground to simulate mobile small arms to dissuade the rescue forces from coming in. The hostile forces also tried to capture the survivors on the ground. 

"The responsibility of the survivors is to, first of all, not get captured and second of all get saved," said Capt. Ryan Cox, 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron electronic warfare officer. "You have to keep that duality in mind to not be seen by the enemy, but at the same time, be seen by friendly forces." 

There were two simulated survivors -- an aviator and a non-aviator -- each day of the exercise. 

"There was a lot to learn," Captain Cox said. "We had members of our intelligence shop also come out and act as other downed members. It was an opportunity to allow other members of our organization who we rely on to get an idea of how it is to be in that situation, since intel folks haven't been able to get that kind of exposure." 

There are a few additional training scenarios to allow the 96th EBS to work with Navy helicopter squadron before the bombers and Airmen redeploy in September.