1,500+ Airmen and Soldiers conduct mass airfield seizure exercise in Alaska

Paratroopers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division jump from an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 Hercules on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, as part of a Joint Force Entry Exercise on June 7, 2014. The six-day exercise involved over 1,500 personnel including active duty Army, Air Force and Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Capt. John Callahan/ Released)

Paratroopers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division jump from an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 Hercules on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, as part of a Joint Force Entry Exercise on June 7, 2014. The six-day exercise involved over 1,500 personnel including active duty Army, Air Force and Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Capt. John Callahan/ Released)

Crew members from the 144th Airlift Squadron set up a C-130 Hercules on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to accommodate paratroopers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division as part of a Joint Forcible Entry Exercise on June 7, 2014. The six-day exercise involved over 1,500 personnel including active duty Army, Air Force and the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. N. Alicia Halla/ Released)

Crew members from the 144 Airlift Squadron set up a C-130 Hercules on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to accommodate paratroopers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division as part of a Joint Forcible Entry Exercise on June 7, 2014. The six-day exercise involved over 1,500 personnel including active duty Army, Air Force and the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. N. Alicia Halla/ Released)

An Alaska Air National Guard C-130 Hercules prepares to take off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, as part of a six-day Joint Forcible Entry Exercise on June 7, 2014. The JFEX was a joint effort between active duty Army, Air Force and Air National Guard units from Alaska, Washington and Guam. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Banton/ Released)

An Alaska Air National Guard C-130 Hercules prepares to take off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, as part of a six-day Joint Forcible Entry Exercise on June 7, 2014. The JFEX was a joint effort between active duty Army, Air Force and Air National Guard units from Alaska, Washington and Guam. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Banton/ Released)

Members from the 773rd Logistics Readiness Group; 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division; and the 176th Operations Group coordinate mission planning on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 6, 2014. Alaska guardsmen and active duty soldiers and airmen combined efforts during a six-day Joint Forcible Entry Exercise. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. N. Alicia Halla. Released)

Members from the 773rd Logistics Readiness Group; 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division; and the 176 Operations Group coordinate mission planning on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, June 6, 2014. Alaska guardsmen and active duty soldiers and airmen combined efforts during a six-day Joint Forcible Entry Exercise. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. N. Alicia Halla. Released)

Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Air Borne), 25th Infantry Division coordinate with incoming paratroopers  on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, as part of a Joint Force Entry Exercise on June 7, 2014. The six-day exercise involved over 1,500 personnel including active duty Army, Air Force and Air National Guard. ( U.S. Air National Guard photo by Captain John Callahan/ Released)

Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Air Borne), 25th Infantry Division coordinate with incoming paratroopers on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, as part of a Joint Force Entry Exercise on June 7, 2014. The six-day exercise involved over 1,500 personnel including active duty Army, Air Force and Air National Guard. ( U.S. Air National Guard photo by Captain John Callahan/ Released)

Aircrew members from the 144th Airlift Squadron hold a final briefing prior to take-off Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, for an airdrop as part of a six-day Joint Forcible Entry Exercise on June 7, 2014. The JFEX was a joint effort between active duty Army, Air Force and Air National Guard units from Alaska, Washington and Guam. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Banton/ Released)

Aircrew members from the 144 Airlift Squadron hold a final briefing prior to take-off Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, for an airdrop as part of a six-day Joint Forcible Entry Exercise on June 7, 2014. The JFEX was a joint effort between active duty Army, Air Force and Air National Guard units from Alaska, Washington and Guam. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. William Banton/ Released)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --

The office bustled with olive green jumpsuits, the smell of pizza and a dozen conversations dropping terms such as "sorties" and "objective." At the white board near a high table covered in maps, a 6-foot-plus commander in a flight suit bearing the 144 Airlift Squadron patch scribbled information and directed various personnel.

           

Ring, ring. "Mission planning cell," another serious face answered one of the uniformly black, office phones.

 

The mission planning cell was the eyes and ears of the air and ground forces commanders, assigned to the task of command-and-control for the Joint Forcible Entry Exercise's many moving parts.

 

More than 1,500 service members drawn from Alaska, Oregon and Guam came together for a large joint-force exercise here and at Fort Greely, near Delta Junction, from June 4 to June 9.

 

The Joint Forcible Entry Exercise (JFEX) -- a giant undertaking by the Alaska Air National Guard's 176 Operations Group, U.S. Army Alaska's 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, the Oregon Air National Guard's 125th Special Tactics Squadron and the Air Force's Guam-based 36th Contingency Response Group -- demonstrated close cooperation and the ability to project combat power.

 

The six-day event involved a mock airfield seizure from enemy forces, multiple airdrops, and airlift transport of more than 500 tons of cargo and more than 650 Soldiers and Airmen. It included a jump with more than 500 paratroopers, intelligence reconnaissance, simulated firefights, a medical evacuation exercise, air traffic control and more.

 

Exercise organizers attributed its success to the flexibility and positive attitudes of the entire team.

 

"Sometimes people focus on why we can't," said Army Col. Matt McFarlane, the JFEX ground forces commander and 4/25 BCT commander. "We focused on how we can."

 

Planning began in October 2013 and required considerable collaboration between participants and critical support from other agencies such as the 3rd Operation Group; the 176, 773rd and 673d logistics readiness squadrons; and the 176 Maintenance Group.

 

The Alaska Air Guard's 176 Wing, with its wide range of missions, was able to furnish support normally requiring several wings. For example, the original plans called for preparing only 12 aircraft, and wing maintainers were able to provide 16 mission-ready aircraft -- including the C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules, HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter and HC-130 King aircraft -- for more than 70 flying missions during the exercise. They were able to repair aircraft in 45 minutes - work that usually takes four days, according to Lt. Col. Michael Griesbaum, the 176 Operations Group deputy commander, who served as deputy air forces commander for the exercise.

 

Unforeseen factors required speedy cooperation by support agencies. Changes included moving the original drop zone for the paratroopers from Allen Air Field at Fort Greely to Malamute Drop Zone on JBER due to unsafe wind conditions. 

 

The organizations achieved interoperability -- working together to achieve service-specific training, learning each other's terminology, and building stronger relationships.

 

"The intention is to continue these mutually-beneficial large force exercises in the future," said Col. Blake Gettys, the 176 Operations Group commander, who served as the exercise's air forces commander.

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