LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Airmen assigned to the 19th Airlift Wing recently returned home after strengthening joint ties during Northern Edge 2021, a large-scale field training exercise held at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, May 3-14.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command-led exercise, which involved the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy, recreated high-end realistic warfighter training to practice tactics, techniques and procedures while improving command, control and communication relationships, joint interoperability and combat readiness in a Large Force Employment (LFE) training scenario with a focus on multi-domain operations.
Operating out of various locations in and around Alaska, two C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 61st Airlift Squadron supported the buildup, sustainment, and redeployment of three forward operating sites.
In total, LRAFB aircrews flew 54 sorties, transporting 292 passengers and 138,000 pounds of cargo, directly supporting 15,000 joint service members and over 240 aircraft.
“It is a rare opportunity to have this many joint partners in one place,” said Capt. Robert Black, 61st AS pilot. “The challenging scenario and environment that we operated in builds confidence in our crews.”
The 61st AS also conducted a joint forcible entry (JFE) of over 300 paratroopers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.
The C-130Js were part of a multi-ship formation, entering into a highly contested environment during an LFE while receiving direct support from A-10 Thunderbolt IIs as well as 4th and 5th generation fighters.
Black said the successful formation airdrop validated strategic infiltration capabilities, enabling the rapid insertion of a HIMARS unit and demonstrating the Joint Force’s capability to swiftly project combat power.
“Confidence is instilled in our joint partners that we are capable of executing the mission we are tasked with in a high end fight,” Black said. “Each of our sister services speaks a different language and being able to integrate in the same location and learn about each other’s capabilities and limitations was very valuable.”
Understanding the role of adjacent units and enhancing the ability to work together were key components of NE21.
“Integration and interoperability are key to being able to project combat power in a high-end fight,” Black said. “Operating outside of our normal military bases is challenging but Airmen and joint partners are able to rise up to challenge and adapt and execute the mission.”