Rapid mobility: Misawa fighter squadrons deploy during mass movement
Misawa Air Base, JAPAN -- During a mass movement starting July 12 and spanning roughly a week, more than 500 Airmen from across Misawa Air Base departed for exercises Cope Taufan 16 and Pitch Black.
Every summer, Airmen from Misawa depart to various temporary duty locations, allowing them to gain practice in another mission set while in a new environment.
Exercise Cope Taufan 16, held in Pangkalan Udara Butterworth and Pangkalan Udara Subang, Malaysia, allows for an exchange of techniques and procedures to enhance interoperability and cooperation between U.S. and Royal Malaysian air force airmen, while conducting operations in air superiority, airborne command and control, close air support, interdiction, air refueling, tactical airlift and tactical air drop.
Exercise Pitch Black is a three-week multi-national large force employment exercise conducted from Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin and RAAF Base Tindal, encompassing 11 countries, and designed to enhance readiness and strengthen regional partnerships.
Both exercises will last roughly a month, allowing the fighter squadrons to continue flying while Airmen with the 35th Civil Engineer Squadron repair Misawa’s runway. As the sole bilateral, joint-service, civilian-use air base in the Pacific, the runway sees use for U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, Japan Air Self-Defense Force and commercial air operations resulting in excessive use and the need for regular repair work.
“Runway construction starts on July 19,” said Maj. Christopher Byrne, the 35th Fighter Wing director of staff. “The construction is going to reduce the runway length to less than what is required for normal day to day operations for F-16’s.”
As the construction is unavoidable, the deployments also serve to help pilots and maintainers remain proficient.
“Deploying these aircraft to different locations will allow us to continue flying operations for both squadrons,” said Byrne. “This gives unique training opportunities for both squadrons going to two separate locations, training with joint and bilateral partners. Our pilots will also be able to keep their flying hours while out maintainers can keep doing their jobs in a new and exciting location.”
Even though both squadrons were gone within the week, the task was no easy feat; it took months of planning for a smooth execution.
“The planning for these particular exercises started six or seven months ago,” said Senior Master Sgt. Lowell Armstrong, 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron deployment and distribution flight chief. “The squadrons needed to determine what kind of training they wanted to do within the exercises and then determined what kind of equipment to pack. The load planners then see what can fit on the aircraft and move forward with prepping the cargo.”
Palletizing and loading was one of the focal points during the deployment of the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons, ensuring approximately 461,000 pounds of military equipment were safely packed and loaded onto the pallets and aircraft.
“We used a smaller team because of a compresses time frame,” said Armstrong. “The team comprised of traffic management personnel and internal augmentees from the medical group who worked from 6 a.m. to midnight to process the cargo of both 747’s in one day each.”
Through the efforts of Airmen from across the wing, long hours and tireless work spent processing cargo and aircraft, the 35th FW made good on its mission of providing worldwide deployable forces.
“If you look at what we did last week, we launched two full flying squadrons in a single day to another base – that’s unprecedented,” said Byrne. “Across the board, from our maintainers to out load crew to our operators, getting that many people out the door in a single day is something I’ve never seen done and it’s absolutely incredible.”