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NEWS | Oct. 7, 2015

AF and USA participate in White Sands exercise

By First Lieutenant Caleb Weaver 16th Airlift Squadron

The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army began the Network Integration Exercise 16.1 (NIE 16.1) on September 25 in the White Sands Missile range, New Mexico. The purpose of the exercise was to modernize the Army's tactical communication network. The NIE spanned the globe with 14 international allied players. All participants interacted in both live and simulated scenarios to evaluate the communication and integration of the war fighter. The Air Force provided four C-17's from JB Charleston and three C-17's from JB Lewis-McChord working in concert with seven C-130's from the 317th, 146th, 934th, 120nd and 179th Airlift Groups. Additionally, the 618th Air Operations Center, 21st Special Tactics Squadron, 82nd Airborne Division and 43rd Airlift Group units provided invaluable support to NIE 16.1

"The 437th Airlift Wing is tasked with planning and carrying out the safe delivery of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd ABD," said Captain Phil Becker of the 15th Airlift Squadron, the lead planner and pilot for the exercise. "One of the challenges of planning this event with seven different flying units and multiple supporting units, all in geographically separated locations, was exchanging information in an efficient manner." These challenges, among others, helped push Capt. Becker and the mission planning cell to explore creative, new ideas for the safe execution of the mission.

In most air drop exercises, the planning is accomplished so far in advance that the "fog of war" has all but lifted by zero hour. One of the most promising results of the White Sands, NM air drop is that the planners proved that, even when given a shortened planning period, the Mobility Air Forces were able to provide a sound plan, leadership, well trained men and women and operable aircraft to safely execute the mission.

NIE 16.1 served as a training tool to maintain and further hone the skills of the Airmen involved. While the training component of large exercises, such as NIE 16.1, is invaluable to the Pilots, Loadmasters, Maintenance and support staff involved, the crews also had a lot of fun. "There's nothing like seeing all of your hard work and planning pay off; especially when that includes a mass formation of C-17's and C-130 H, and J models all working together to drop our guys and push the mission," said Captain Nick Coblio, 16th Airlift Squadron.