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Fly away mission enhances readiness

190301_F_IM770_001.JPGJOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --
Two McChord C-17 Globemaster III air crews recently ran two separate readiness exercises held in Puerto Rico, and the remote location and relative lack of familiar infrastructure enhanced realistic operations of a deployed environment.

Reserve Citizen Airmen 313th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord ventured out to Puerto Rico to complete a range of mobility readiness exercises in partnership with support teams from the 446th Operations Group as well as the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron also stationed at JBLM.

"We tried to treat it as if we were deploying the whole squadron," said Chief Master Sgt. Ty Brooks, 313th AS chief loadmaster of one of the C-17 air crews, "and we also brought some wing inspection team members along to help better prepare us for our self-inspections."

The C-17 air crew Brooks was supporting was responsible for the air drop mission on the island. In partnering with the 22nd STS, the crew was able to successfully perform two high altitude low opening jumps from 10,000 feet for eight of the combat controllers on board.

"The HALO jumps required jumping from a higher altitude than normal and opening parachutes at a lower altitude," said Brooks, "and the [22nd STS] guys brought two parachutes a piece so we were able to land, pick them up and drop them a second time as well."

Part of the challenge in performing these exercises was the need to set up and organize their missions without many of the familiar comforts and structure of their home station.

"Some of our folks exercised their deployment processes by setting up a squadron operations center for us there at the local community center to perform flight processing," said Brooks. "We do that in the squadron every day when we fly out of McChord, but we don't normally take that process and move it away from the squadron level. It was great for them to be able practice that."

Separate from the air drop mission, another C-17 air crew, piloted by Capt. Lazare Quintana of the 313th Airlift Squadron, performed an air land mission set to hone their basic take-off and landing skills in a remote location.

"The point of these exercises was really to see if we could work together and problem solve in a deployed environment," said Quintana. "We would do things, like intentionally leave someone off of the flight authorization, just to see if we could work on the fly to overcome that obstacle and complete the mission."

It was critical for those involved to demonstrate that they could perform all of their tasks and duties regardless of the situation and still ensure that everything was up-to-code for inspection purposes.

"Our goal was to show that as an air crew, we can launch aircraft away from home station and recover those aircraft while still complying with all our standards," said Quintana.

During their flyaway to Puerto Rico, the crews also had an opportunity to participate in various survival oceanic and urban survival trainings put on by their survival evasion resistance and escape specialist.

"We trained to operate for scenarios where we might have to fly long distance trans-oceanic," said Quintana, "and it was important for us to know how we could best prepare for that during a potential deployment."

In addition to accomplishing all their training goals, the 313th AS also had a unique opportunity to build unit cohesion.

"This training opportunity really brought us all closer together," said Brooks. "We're looking forward to hopefully coming back and doing this again."