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97 AMW Airmen Support Joint Exercise Operation Western Strike

97 AMW Airmen Support Joint Exercise Operation Western Strike

Story by A1C Breanna Klemm on 07/16/2019

The 97th Air Mobility Wing worked alongside the Army National Guard headquartered in Oklahoma City, Okla., to complete a joint exercise with a C-17 Globemaster III, June 3 2019, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.

“Out here today, we are conducting a high-range mission in support of Operation Western Strike,” said U.S. Army National Guard 1st Lt. Nicholas Case, 2nd Fire Platoon Leader. “The main priority is practicing loading personnel and equipment, HIMARS specific, onto an aircraft so they can roll off the aircraft and quickly fire missions.”

During Operation Western Strike, the C-17 received four High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and Oklahoma Army National Guard Soldiers to simulate deploying into an overseas combative zone by travelling to Fort Smith, Ark.

Prior to loading the aircraft, the Aerial Operations Flight performed joint inspections of the unit’s cargo ensuring it is properly prepared for flight. Members of the AOF accounted for the weight, height and length of the cargo to ensure it does not exceed the maximum capacity of the aircraft.

“The most beneficial part of the exercise was the interoperability of unity,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Johanna O’Toole, 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander. “This exercise called on Active Guard units, from the Army and Air Force, with uniformed and civilian forces. Additionally, we were able to gain invaluable hands-on experience with vehicles we normally do not see here at Altus.”

This exercise relies on the partnership between the Air Force and Army National Guard to increase the readiness of the Airmen and Citizen Soldiers. Overall, the aim is to test the efficiency of mobilizing ground equipment and troops at a moment’s notice.

The 97 AMW conducts these exercises to ensure accuracy, precision and excellence in the execution of tasks, but it is not every day the National Guard gets to do this.

“Training exercises like this are extremely important, especially so we can be ready to deploy and go whenever we are needed,” U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Cory Clemons, Alpha Battery 1-158 Section Chief. “This specific training is very good, not only to help improve our readiness and skills, but to help strengthen our bond with the Air Force as well.”

While assisting the Soldiers with readiness training, this mission provided the 97 AMW loadmasters experience with handling complex cargo outside the standard training pallets and Humvee loads at Altus.

“Here at Altus AFB we are just used to flying with students and helping them load everything up,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Drew Casburn, 58th Airlift Squadron Loadmaster. “Exercises like this help us stay on our toes and allows us to load some cargo and do the same things they are doing on the coast.”

The three-week long exercise will conclude with a flight to pick up the soldiers and equipment and return them back to Oklahoma. These exercises provide the 97 AMW with more tools for the day they deploy to overseas environments, building stronger and more versatile Airmen in the meantime.

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