JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Joint Base Charleston Airmen returned home this week, after participating in the largest iteration of the Air Force’s premier multinational mobility exercise, Mobility Guardian 23.
The debut of this Air Mobility Command exercise in the Indo-Pacific saw 70 mobility aircraft with more than 3,000 service members from Australia, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States surge across an exercise area spanning 13 million square miles.
“Seeing the effort of Charleston’s Airmen and the entire Coalition learning from each other, supporting each other, and getting the mission done is hard to describe,” said Col. Carlos Berdecia, 437th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “The integration continued in and out of uniform, forming a lifetime bond amongst many. It was a great success.”
One of the key highlights of MG23 was the integration of forces, allowing for the application of many new concepts, including the Air Force Force Generation model and Agile Combat Employment. Taking part in MG23 lent vital experience to JB Charleston Airmen as they prepare to deploy as the first AEW in the AFFORGEN cycle.
“Not only did we explode into the theater meaneuvering our Joint partners, we were agile enough to support real-world impromptu missions - a search-and-rescue mission saving 11 multinational lives, a NICU baby that needed transport to the U.S., a second search-and-rescue of a hurt hiker,” Berdecia said. “I’d say that is pretty special.”
The exercise demonstrated the interoperability of combined forces and advanced a shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region while honing readiness objectives from each participating country, giving JB Charleston Airmen the unique experience of working directly with Allies and partners as both the 437th AEW on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and as the C-17 Force Element in Australia.
“The value of flying training in the Pacific Theater was incredibly valuable for Team Charleston,” said Lt. Col. Nicole Stenstad, C-17 Force Element commander in Australia. “The long legs and austere conditions stressed our members at times, but also built resiliency and allowed them to experience challenges that cannot be duplicated in the CONUS. Their ability to overcome these challenges built the confidence we need for future operations in this theater.”
The interoperability initiatives unlocked new levels of synergy across the seven nations as combined planning efforts led to interfly agreements allowing mixed aircrews on airlift missions, blended multi-nation aeromedical evacuation teams, new aerial refueling validations, and integrated maintenance support that allowed maintainers from different nations to fix one another’s aircraft and source shared parts.
“Our allies and partners were amazing to work with,” Stenstad said. “The Royal Australian Air Force at Base Townsville and the airport authorities and civilians at Cairns International were especially helpful and welcoming. They all had a very positive attitude and wanted to work with us.”
Both U.S. and RAAF aircrew in Australia were able to expose their counterparts to air refueling procedures with each nation’s tanker aircraft - U.S. Air Force KC-46s and RAAF KC-130s. For the RAAF pilots, it was their first time refueling with KC-46s.
“As the A3 operations director, I got to experience the interoperability of Allies and partners daily,” said Maj. Joey Brewer, the lead planner for JB Charleston’s participation in MG23 and the 437th AEW A3. “Allies and partners worked seamlessly to ensure safe, effective flying operations.
“Intelligence analysts conducted regional analysis briefs, weathermen and women updated volcanic and hurricane activity, and aviators planned and flew complex, multi-aircraft missions, which reinforced the strength of working with our Allies and partners,” Brewer said.
Planners attributed the success of MG23 to the dedication and professionalism of the Mobility Airmen who participated in the exercise, including not only those exercising in the Indo-Pacific theater, but also those supporting the exercise from the U.S. and other global operating locations while sustaining daily mobility commitments around the world without impact.
“No one else can do this,” said Gen. Mike Minihan, AMC commander. “No one can maneuver at the speed and tempo with the capabilities and talent, and most importantly, with the integrated Allies and partners that this team provides to the Joint force and the world.”
Planners say that while Mobility Guardian 23 has concluded, the assessments and insights learned from the exercise will drive tactical- to strategic-level impacts that will be felt across the Joint force for years to come.
“We have momentum with Allies and partners, and we have identified gaps,” Berdecia said. “Now it is time to build on this exercises’s momentum so we can continue ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacifc region. It was an honor of a lifetime to work with our Allies and partners, and with our Airmen during MG23. Together, we made magic!”
For more information about MG23, visit https://www.dvidshub.net/feature/MG23.