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The Rock crosses the Pacific

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brieana E. Bolfing
  • 374th Airlift Wing

Airmen from Yokota Air Base welcomed four Air Mobility Command C-130J’s from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, as part of a capstone exercise Feb. 8-19, 2020.

“Yokota has a very unique AOR,” said Capt. John Walitsch, 61st Airlift Squadron C-130J pilot. “By the 61st flying out, we get to enhance our skill set and learn how to fly in different parts of the world where there may be language barriers, different air space, and problems we may need to overcome.”

The 19th Airlift Wing Airmen flew thousands of miles to integrate with Pacific Air Forces C-130J’s from Yokota Air Base, Japan, as part of a larger exercise culminating the 4/12 deployment initiative, a 12-month process focused on sharpening readiness and preparing for tomorrow’s fight.

With the new 4/12 initiative, AMC squadrons can deploy all their aircraft at once, creating the same down-range impact with a more cohesive training unit at home and less time away from family.

Since 9/11, deployments have been four months long followed by four months home—sending a few aircraft at a time, resulting in a constant deployment rotation and a consistently fragmented squadron at home, said Walitsch.

This training provided diverse flight operation opportunities while allowing the 41st Airlift Squadron and 61st AS to operate in the Department of Defense’s largest area of responsibility.

To help the 61st adapt to a new environment, Yokota Airmen worked alongside the LRAFB Airmen, furthering their own training and strengthening their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

“It really has been a wing effort to receive them,” said Capt. Sean Boyington, 36th AS C-130J pilot and event coordinator. “We are practicing our reception working group here, which encompasses every organization and squadron on base.

“It allows us to be able to receive incoming aircraft, house them, provide maintenance, and process their cargo. We are able to brief them on local air space and any kind of special instructions we have for this AOR, utilizing aircraft from other locations to help bolster our capability if necessary.”

The exercise was a success overall, said Boyington. With all seven aircraft from both wings flying in joint formations as planned, before the 61st completed training and returned home to their own installations.

“We are guests at Yokota and this air space, but we are one big Hercules family,” said 1st Lt. Riley Richards, 61st AS C-130J pilot. “Having that tight-knit community makes training in these new environments all the easier. Given the opportunity to come back, I would really enjoy another opportunity to train alongside the Airmen and aircrews of Yokota.”