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U.S. Airmen, international partners look to build capabilities with Mobility Guardian

Up close shot of 82nd Airborne Division soldier

A Soldier assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, loads onto a C-130 Hercules prior to a joint forcible entry exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Aug. 2, 2017. More than 3,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and international partners converged on the state of Washington in support of Mobility Guardian. The exercise returns to Washington Sept. 8, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Erin McClellan)

Royal Air Force aircraftsman in full uniform for exercise is standing on the flightline

Royal Air Force senior aircraftsman Tom Raven, provides security for a New Zealand C-130H Super Hercules, during Exercise Mobility Guardian at Moses Lake, Washington., Aug.5, 2017. More than 650 international service members worked alongside more than 3,000 U.S. service members during Mobility Guardian in 2017. The 2019 edition of the exercise will be hosted at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, and kicks off Sept. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Hicks)

Airmen working on vehicles

U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Cole Seelen, left, and Airman 1st Class Holly Cooper, both 921st Contingency Response Squadron members, strap down a Humvee during Exercise Mobility Guardian at Moses Lake, Washington, Aug. 5, 2017. The 621st Contingency Response Wing deployed an air base opening team of 99 Contingency Response Airmen in support of Air Mobility Command’s premier readiness exercise. Mobility Guardian returns to Washington in 2019 and is set to begin Sept. 8. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Hicks)

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Team Travis Airmen are set to participate in Mobility Guardian, Air Mobility Command’s premier, large-scale mobility exercise, which will be hosted at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Sept. 8 – 28.

While dozens of Travis Airmen will travel to Fairchild AFB to support the exercise, Travis AFB will also serve as an intermediate staging base throughout the exercise providing a wide range of support from the largest air mobility hub in the Air Force.

More than 4,000 service members from 30 nations are slated to take part in the biennial training event, which will feature contested, degraded and operationally-limited environments that mobility forces have to overcome. A variety of training scenarios will be presented including opening an air base, joint forcible entry, aeromedical evacuation and support for humanitarian relief and global strike operations.

“Unmatched rapid global mobility exists because of the ready and resilient Airmen who execute the mission day in and day out,” said Gen. Maryanne Miller, AMC commander. “Training exercises such as Mobility Guardian are critical to ensuring our Airmen are able to keep AMC’s promise to always be there for those who depend on us, today and tomorrow.”

Ensuring that capability is a major focus area for Staff Sgt. Brandon Hansen, 21st Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III loadmaster, who will be participating in the exercise.

“As loadmasters, we are responsible for the safe loading of cargo and ensuring that cargo is properly weighed and balanced,” Hansen said. “We could be transporting supplies in support of humanitarian assistance, airlifting patients to the next level of medical care or transporting people anywhere in the world. We need to be ready and Mobility Guardian offers a great opportunity to hone those skills.”

Hansen has deployed twice in support of contingency operations and he’s supported numerous missions that have taken him to more than 50 countries and six continents.

Along the way, he’s had the opportunity to work alongside some of America’s international partners, something he said he really enjoys.

“The more we work together, the more we understand one another and that is vital to ensuring we are on the same page when it comes to supporting the mission,” Hansen said. “I’ve worked with the Royal Australian air force in the past and I heard they’ll be at Mobility Guardian. I’m looking forward to connecting with them, learning more about their culture and helping build a stronger bond. That bond creates a layer of trust and people tend to be more willing to help and care more about whatever needs to be done when that bond is established.”

Fostering strong bonds that lead to increased mission capability is one of the reasons the RAAF will participate in Mobility Guardian, according to Wing Commander Sarah Stalker, 33rd Squadron commander for RAAF Base Amberley, Australia.

Mobility Guardian offers an excellent opportunity to share and learn from each other in a high end air mobility focused exercise, Stalker said.

“(With Mobility Guardian), Australia gets to partake in a large-scale exercise with countries who rarely visit Australia and enhance our international partnerships,” she said. “Working with our international partners enables us to share lessons learned on the exercise, as well as lessons learned from our collective historical experience from each of our home locations.”

Sharing those lessons and growing from those experiences is one of the greatest benefits to bringing nations together to train, said Capt. Brian Walford, 9th Air Refueling Squadron training flight commander and a KC-10 Extender instructor pilot.

“It’s important we do all we can to enhance full spectrum readiness with our international partners so, when we are needed, we can execute rapid global mobility at a moment’s notice,” he said.

Walford has more than 2,000 flying hours in the KC-10 and has supported hundreds of missions all over the world. He shared one moment during a mission where rapid global mobility was on display.

“During one deployment to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, we were notified of a Royal Air Force jet that was in urgent need of fuel,” Walford said. “We responded immediately and provided that jet with the fuel it needed ensuring it could complete the mission. Without that capability, they wouldn’t have been able to be successful, and with Mobility Guardian, we are focused on training together in a way where we ensure we continue to advance our skills so we always provide the best RGM possible.”

During a deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, Hansen shared a moment when being trained and ready to respond to nearly anything served him well.

“We had to quickly offload six pallets of supplies and configure a C-17 to serve as an aeromedical transport because a Solider was in critical condition after a grenade exploded,” he said. “We had the C-17 offloaded, re-configured and the patient in the aircraft with the aeromedical team and all their supplies in less than an hour.”

One of the goals of Mobility Guardian is to strengthen international partnerships and improve operational capabilities that lead to future success.

“Everything we do now is in the joint environment and there isn’t a theater we operate in without our international partners,” said Capt. Chet Miller, a 21st AS operations controller, who will also serve as a C-17 aircraft commander during the exercise. “That’s why it’s so critical we train together. By doing so, we have assurances that our training and their training gives all of us the skills and knowledge needed to sustain operations whenever and wherever those operations will take place.”