JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. –
Joint Base Charleston's 437th Airlift Wing recently participated in NATO's largest exercise in over 20 years.
Exercise Ultimate Reach 16-1, a part of the larger Exercise Trident Juncture 15, took place Nov. 2-8.
Ultimate Reach is an annual U.S. Transportation Command-sponsored, live-fly exercise designed to exercise the ability of 18th Air Force to plan and conduct strategic airdrop missions.
Participating in the exercise were four C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the 437th AW, as well as JB Charleston aircrews manning them. Together, with aerial refueling support from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and Travis Air Force Base, Calif., they flew more than 500 82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers from Pope Army Airfield, NC, nonstop to a drop zone in Spain.
"For us to provide a direct-delivery sortie halfway around the globe without stopping is quite impressive, said Capt. Christopher Mahan, 15th Airlift Squadron pilot. "It's something we don't get to exercise very often but days like this we can not only do that but succeed in doing it."
By participating in this exercise, the 437th AW had the opportunity to train for a specific mission set and continue to build relationships with the Army and NATO allies.
"We provide and posture rapid mobility forces for things like this global response force and move the Army anywhere in the world at any time," said Mahan. "Training like this is extremely important."
The ability to move forces and equipment anywhere on earth in a matter of hours is instrumental to the collective defense of NATO and other partner nations.
This exercise also demonstrates the 437th AW's ability to work hand-in-hand with the joint and total force partners to accomplish whatever mission the nation requires.
"As with TRANSCOM, Air Mobility Command and the United States, we have a responsibility to NATO to use this exercise as an opportunity to train with our NATO allies," said Mahan. "Missions like this create that interoperability with our allies and sister services."
"Ultimate Reach truly is a great opportunity to showcase the 437th AW's ability to have global presence and to show NATO that we are there to support them," added Capt. Daniel Naske, 15th Airlift Squadron pilot.
With an exercise this large, there was a lot of planning and precision.
"There is a lot of planning which goes into an airdrop exercise," said Naske, who was also the lead Air Force Ultimate Reach planner. "This one specifically had more to it because we were taking aircraft and paratroopers from The United States to Europe, which required more coordination with air traffic control, diplomatic clearances, foreign relationships with the host nation to ensure we had access to the airspace as well as all normal things we do with an airdrop to include tactics on how we are going to execute it and coordinating with the 82nd ABD."
During the return trip to Pope Army Airfield, NC, the C-17 crews performed nighttime personnel airdrops with the 82nd ABD.
Conducting nighttime operations is an essential skill for the 437th AW to perform airdrop anytime, anywhere.
The mission commander had a few words about the overall success of the wing's participation in the exercise.
"The 437th AW was proud to be a part of the Ultimate Reach and Trident Juncture Exercises along with our partners from across the KC-10 and C-17 community," said Col. John Lamontagne, 437th AW commander. "It was an outstanding demonstration of the C-17's ability to provide the global-reach for the Global Response Force. We've been working with the 82d ABD for a long time and look forward to an even stronger partnership moving forward."