By Airman 1st Class Amanda Morris, 36th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 13, 2014
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --
On Feb. 28, members of the 36th Wing and Team Andersen completed another successful iteration of Cope North. This year's annual training exercise brought more than 1,300 Airmen to Guam for two weeks of multilateral interoperability.
The exercise, which is a joint effort between the U.S. Air Force, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force, is designed for allies to work together on both humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) missions as well as large force employment mission with dissimilar aircraft.
Many Team Andersen organizations filled unique roles to facilitate the exercise. Airmen were able to gain valuable experience in a high-tempo environment, work with international partners and demonstrate the professionalism of Andersen.
During the HA/DR portion of the exercise, Andersen Airmen were able to shift away from Cope North exercise operations to facilitate a real-world response to a developing humanitarian issue on the neighboring island of Rota.
"The shift from exercise scenario to Rota emergency relief was seamless," said Col. Thomas "Doc" Livingston, 36th CRG commander. "We built an outstanding working relationship recently during the super typhoon relief efforts of Operation Damayan in the Philippines and exercises like Cope North reinforce the 'muscle memory' of how each nation operates and the best way to dovetail capabilities into a complete relief package. The coordination between the aircrew and the ground teams was phenomenal."
In addition to the HA/DR missions, air-to-air and air-to-ground combat training was conducted for Cope North and required significant support from the 36th Operations Group.
"From an operations group perspective, the exercise was a great learning experience," said Lt. Col. Steve Harrold, the 36th OG deputy commander. "Our tower controllers got invaluable experience with different aircraft and with higher traffic counts; it was also beneficial for our intel folks to get plugged in on the scenarios."
While the other aircraft that deployed to Guam did not fall under 36th OG's operational control, the group was responsible for ensuring safe operations on the airfield, as well as the bed-down of all operations units deployed to Andersen.
On Andersen and Guam, the airspace requirements are unique; in order to keep everyone safe, 36th OG provided a local area brief to all the aircrew. The brief included the local flying pattern and noise sensitive areas as well as an orientation of the flightlineand scheduling.
"Everyone has a unique flying technique, different patterns and different speeds; we had to find a way to coordinate with all of them safely," Harrold said.
The air traffic controllers restricted the aircrew to certain types of patterns in order to prevent conflict. The aircraft were sequenced in a specific order so slower heavier planes were not mixed with faster fighter aircraft. The intelligence Airmen were also given scenarios by 5th Air Force exercise planners that required them to support the aircrew with imagery, threat briefs and threat capabilities in order to create a plan to defeat the threat.
"OG is the supported group; our mission is to fly airplanes and that takes the support of every other agency on the base," Harrold said. "I would like to thank the Airmen on Andersen. They make this large scale event possible despite funding constraints, deployed manpower, and temporary facilities to support the exercise. They are amazing and always find ways to accommodate using their innovation."
Of course, with nearly 100 aircraft on Andersen's ramp, the professional maintainers of the 36th Maintenance Group were tested as well.
"Cope North wouldn't happen without us; everything begins and ends with maintenance," said Col. Kim Brooks, 36th MXG commander. "We not only provided the ramp they work from, (to include) maintenance hangars and flightline facilities, but we also host the services they might depend on."
The maintenance Airmen were stressed operationally in the same way those from the 36th OG were; frequent sorties and large numbers of aircraft required a significant amount of support.
"There were so many different and unique customers," Brooks said. "It stretched us to our maximum capacity to operate, which is great training for us to prepare for our own mission."
However, just as the 36th MXG was critical to the support of the exercise, the 36th Mission Support Group played a vital role as well, providing fuel, communications, force support, force protection, and other services.
"Anytime we exercise with our multinational partners we test our technical capabilities and how we would respond in an emergency," said Lt. Col. Robert Burns, 36th Mission Support Group deputy commander. "MSG's function is broad and this is a unique opportunity to practice what could be expected of us in time of war."
This year the group expanded their support far beyond what it is expected for day-to-day activities. Resources were pulled from Joint Region Marianas, the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station to support communications requirement, lodging representatives had to find appropriate living arrangements for more than 1,000 participants and security forces augmented their numbers to provide extra security and flexibility. Additionally, members of the 36th Logistics Readiness Squadron's Petroleum, Oil, and Fuels flight surged capabilities to meet the demand of the operations group.
"In a week of normal duties, we will pump about 300,000 gallons of fuel," said Master Sgt. Ronnie Lawson, 36th LRS operations section chief. "During Cope North we pumped closer to 900,000 gallons for one week, which means just one flight had to triple their regular support capability."
Lawson added that being able to provide high-level support to an operation like Cope North while working with allied partners provided a unique opportunity for his entire section.
"Most of our operators are first-term Airmen," Lawson said. "This is their first time out of the States, and here they are interacting with counterparts from Japan and Australia, building those cultural bridges which will help us when dealing with real-world contingencies.
"Just coming together as a team, working together, getting to know the intricacies of each nation's operations, it all means that when it happens for real we will be fully mission capable faster."
Andersen was able to establish good working relationships with the other nations by taking care of their needs while they were here and by teaching them how the U.S. Air Force operates in both humanitarian assistance/ disaster relief operations and large force employment scenarios.
"We offer the kind of training here on Guam that other nations like the Japanese and Australians can't get anywhere else," Harrold said.
(Tech. Sgt. Zachary Wilson and Senior Airman Marianique Santos, 36th Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this article.)