December 11, 2014 (by A1C Autumn Velez) - On Dec. 6, eleven C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 317th Airlift Group participated in a joint forcible entry exercise at Nellis Air Force Base. That same morning, a combined 24 C-130H and J models from the 317th AG and multiple Air National Guard Bases from across the United States took off from Dyess Air Force Base.
Eleven C-130H from various ANG units and thirteen C-130J from the 317th AG at Dyess AFB, prepare to take off from Dyess AFB in support of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School's Joint Forcible Entry Exercise 14B on December 6, 2014. [USAF photo by A1C Alexander Guerrero]
Joint Forcible Entry Exercise 14B is a U.S. Air Force Weapons School large-scale mobility exercise in which participants from various units throughout the Air Force execute a complex air-land operation on a simulated contested battlefield. The exercise tests the ability of the weapons school participants to synchronize aircraft movement from geographically-separated bases, command large formations of dissimilar aircraft in high-threat airspace, and tactically deliver and recover combat forces via airdrops and combat landings on a degraded landing strip.
The 317th AG's role in the event, which featured 100 aircraft, was to inject soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division via airlift.
"The JFE is the final project for the weapons school," Capt. Tyrel Lyon, 317th Operation Support Squadron said. "It is their chance to integrate with different air frames and the Army. By bringing in these aircraft and actual paratroopers, it makes the exercise realistic."
Flying in formation with aircraft and aircrew from other units provided 317th AG pilots with integration opportunities, preparing them for the large-scale event.
"While flying in formation, there is mutual support because the guy in the back is just as invested as the guy in the front," Lyon said. "Rather than only have one crew's set of minds, there are now multiple, working together, allowing the mission to be quicker, more efficient and more effective."
As the formation of J's and legacy aircraft reached their target near Creech Air Force Base, Nev., loadmasters from the 317th AG had their chance to shine.
"We are on the 'get it done' end of things," said Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Patton, 317th Operation Support Squadron loadmaster. "We made sure that whatever was supposed to go out of the aircraft did, in a safe and timely manner."
In this particular exercise, loadmasters were faced with the challenge of ensuring a safe and successful extraction of a combined total of more than 60 paratroopers.
"Dropping anything is always exhilarating," Patton said. "Personnel are intense because the jumpers are depending on us for their safety."
With only two windows to drop their paratroopers, the C-130Js circled over their target. After their second rotation, every jumper was on the ground safely.
"Seeing each jumper leave successfully is a great feeling," Patton said. "Seeing such a vital part of their mission be successful makes it that much better."
The JFE's impact went further than providing a final test for weapon's school attendees; it and similar events provide much-needed opportunities to prepare for real-world operations.
"It's always a blast to be able to participate in large exercises like the JFE," Patton said. "We are able to put what we practice to use while preparing for actual missions we may face in a deployed environment."
For Lyon, the JFE served as a look into his future. He has been selected from amongst his peers to attend the weapons school in 2015.
"Participating in this JFE has set me up to see what I will be doing at the weapons school before I leave Dyess," Lyons said. "There are so many players that go into the actual integration of these aircrafts. Flying is the smallest factor; it comes down to why, when and what way."