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Operational readiness exercise tests Airmen, Marines

by Tech. Sgt. Rey Ramon
18th Wing Public Affairs

12/7/2007 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AFPN) -- Airmen from the 18th Wing joined with elements from the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing to conduct a joint operational readiness exercise Dec. 3 to 7 here.

During the week-long exercise, Kadena Air Base members and their Marine counterparts were tested on their ability to execute their wartime taskings, generate combat sorties under simulated wartime conditions and provide unmatched combat airpower in the Pacific region.

Approximately 600 Marines and 30 F/A-18 Hornets from Marine Air Group 12, arrived from Marine Corps Air Staton, Japan, to participate in the joint training. 

The MAG-12 Marines joined Marines already on Okinawa Island and added a new level of realism and complexity to Kadena Air Base's already robust exercise program, base officials said. 

"The addition of the Marines to our local operational readiness exercise was an incredible opportunity for us to practice our mission of receiving and bedding down incoming forces and then employing those forces in the event of a contingency," said Brig. Gen. Brett T. Williams, the 18th Wing commander. "The experience of training side by side with our joint partners has been invaluable. For the Marines, the benefits of the joint training were abundant."

"In an exercise where we can bring this many assets together, it allows us to test our expeditionary skills refine tactics, techniques and procedures, and have access to air-to-ground ranges while supporting the 18th Wing's exercise requirements," said Marine Capt. Dave Emich, the MAG-12 commanding officer.

Receiving and integrating the Marines into the exercise was only part of the story. 

The wing also simulated the deployment of the 18th Airborne Air Control Squadron and the 909th Air Refueling Squadron to forward locations to provide airborne command and control and aerial refueling capability throughout the theater of operations. 

Kadena AB was unable to generate any F-15 sorties due to the fleet-wide stand-down, but exercise planners compensated with the use of simulators for the wing's F-15 pilots and the addition of the Marines to the exercise air tasking order. 

The Wing's 31st and 33rd Rescue Squadrons also practiced their mission of rescuing downed aircrews.

In addition to evaluating the ability of the wing to receive incoming forces, deploy forces to forward locations and generate combat sorties from Kadena AB, the exercise tested base members ability to survive and operate effectively during war-time conditions.  Airmen contended with various scenarios, including simulated missile attacks, mass casualty incidents, fires, major accidents and base defense scenarios. Airmen were put to the test on their ability to operate in a chemical environment, perform self-aid buddy care and deal with a myriad of other situations that could arise in a contingency.

"With the increase in frequency of our exercises, we have improved our ability to survive and operate, solidified our mobility processes and strengthened our ability to generate aircraft," said Maj. Nathaniel Dash, who is with the 18th Wing inspector general's office. "Our goal is to ensure the lowest- to the highest-ranking Airman can act with a sense of urgency and complete whatever task is necessary to accomplish the mission." 

The officer in charge of the wing exercises sees progress in the base's performance, he said

"We are becoming more combat capable and ready to execute whatever mission this wing is tasked with," said Lt. Col. David Schmidt, the 18th Wing inspector general.

Colonel Schmidt is quick to remind Airmen not to lose sight of the real purpose of these exercises.

"This is not about an operational readiness inspection," he said. "This is about honing the 18th Wing's combat capability, so that if we should be called on at any point in time to serve our country in that capacity, we are ready to execute at a top level." 

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