913th Airlift Group Airmen NATO Exercise Force Multiplier

  • Published
  • By Capt. Ashley Walker
  • 913th Airlift Group

Air transportation specialists from the 913th Airlift Group participated in NATO exercise Trident Juncture 18 in Sweden during November. The exercise was designed to test NATO’s ability to plan and conduct a major collective defense operation – enabling NATO forces to improve their readiness and interoperability.

Air transportation specialists, Master Sgt. Mark Compton and Tech. Sgt. Jose Vargas-Gonzalez, were charged with the planning and execution of a U.S. fighter squadron’s return to its home station. The overall exercise scenario tested NATO offensive capabilities of a short notice deployment and limited resources at various basing locations.

“Active duty Air Force asked the Air Force Reserve Command for help supplying air transportation specialists. The Reserve command knew the 96 APS could answer the call,” Lt. Col. Jeffry Haynes, 96th Aerial Port Squadron commander said. “With the limited time, resources, and personnel, our folks skillfully did the work of 10 people.”

As a traditional reservist, Compton had to leave his civilian job and family at a moment’s notice and get on a flight within two days.

“I have a good relationship with my civilian employer who allowed me to drop everything and participate in the exercise. It is difficult to make time for all the pre-deployment training and appointments while balancing civilian work and family obligations,” said Compton. “Leaving family for military duties is always difficult, but more so when you have a young child with medical issues.”

The short notice deployment, cold weather, lack of resources, and various aircraft created a worthwhile challenge for the experienced Airmen.

“To do the work [of aerial port], we had the help of 20 people from different career fields to get it done,” said Compton. “We had everyone from supply to maintenance jump in to help. It was truly an example of one big Air Force family.”

 “Our two aerial porters were the only ones to support the combat arm of the exercise in Sweden,” said Haynes. “They moved 180 passengers, 80,000 pounds of equipment, 5 separate [flight] missions, joint inspected and load planned it all.”

Each military aircraft requires specialized personnel and equipment to support its mission. Aerial ports are responsible for the logistics of moving personnel and equipment into and throughout the operational theater. They are also charged with inspecting hazardous cargo and equipment. Aerial ports are knowledgeable in different aircraft types, capabilities, configurations, aircraft weight and balance factors, and cargo securing techniques.

“Aerial porters are typically the first ones to turn on the lights,” said Compton. “And in this case, we were the last five people out the door. We literally turned out the lights.”

Trident Juncture 18 took place in the surrounding area of the North Atlantic and the Baltic Sea, including Iceland and the airspace of Finland and Sweden. Nearly 50,000 personnel from 30 NATO countries participated in undertook large-scale military operations.