LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --
Personnel from the 61st Airlift Squadron and U.S. Army personnel from the 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery Regiment, collaborated in a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) Joint Load Training exercise April 16-17, 2020, located at both Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
The exercise was aimed at maximizing proficiency in planning, airlift and air mobility support operations.
HIMARS is a highly mobile artillery rocket system offering the firepower of a multiple launch rocket system on a wheeled chassis.
“The HIMARS is one of the more difficult items we move on our aircraft because of the sheer size of the vehicle,” U.S. Air Force Capt. David Carruth, 61st AS pilot, said. “We have to deflate the tires on the HIMARS just to get it onto the C-130J. The training gained for the loadmasters and crew is vital prior to any deployment we go on.”
This training not only benefited the loadmasters and crews but the Army as well.
“It allowed our two teams to link up and work with each other in a controlled environment,” Carruth said. “It helps us learn each other’s best practices for when we take this to deployed locations.”
The training enhanced the Army’s ability to move quickly while at the same time teach all personnel how to efficiently load and unload the HIMARS.
“The system allows our crews to go into an austere landing zone, offload this large vehicle, let it link up to the other HIMARS systems and coordinate fire just a few hundred yards away from the aircraft,” Carruth said. “To have something this large move and deploy, offloading quickly, fire its rockets, and get back on board the Aircraft in short order is pretty amazing.”
While not new, this training is essential for C-130 airlift crews to increase loadmaster proficiency in complex loading requirements.
“While simultaneously dealing with a global pandemic, execution of specific training events like this HIMARS exercise reinforces the fact that Department of Defense leadership, across echelon, is committed to combat ops readiness,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Miller, 61st AS commander. “The 61st AS continues to maintain proficiency across the range of tactical capabilities, from core competencies to our most complex joint skillsets. Even in the midst of crisis, we remain prepared to execute all aspects of our Combat Airlift mission – On Target, On Time.”
On top of the already unique training involved with this system, all personnel had to overcome the COVID-19 mitigation efforts in place to be able to execute this exercise.
“With everything going on right now, it does make training difficult,” Carruth said. “We had to come together as a team and figure out a way to still complete our mission and train our loadmasters and I feel we have been able to do that safely and effectively.”
According to Carruth, the most important thing, especially working in this current environment, is the ability to be flexible.
“To be able to go out there, do what we can with the tools that we have — but also be able to operate in a sense that things change while we continue to get the mission done with what we have available to us — that is what matters most,” Carruth said.