Airmen gain valuable experience at Rainier War

By Tech. Sgt. Sean Tobin/62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs on December 16, 2016

JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD - The states of Washington and Arizona played the parts of hostile nations Dec. 7, during the latest iteration of Rainier War, the semi-annual large-formation exercise hosted by the 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  To complete the exercise, 62nd AW airmen were joined by members of the 446th AW, the Reserve wing at JBLM; as well as members from the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; the 15th Wing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; and airmen from the Hawaii Air National Guard.

What made this version of Rainier War unique is that Air Force members teamed up with soldiers from JBLM's 51st Expeditionary Signal Battalion and the 7th Infantry Division to carry out the exercise.

Teaming up with the Army in this exercise provided added time restraints that aircrews needed to plan for, said Capt. Wade Hetrick, 62nd Operations Support Squadron director of wing tactics.

"It also meant we had to get many other base agencies involved, which made this a total base exercise, instead of just an Operations Group exercise," added Hetrick, who was the lead Air Force planner and the instructor of record for the exercise.

The exercise was a parallel operation, with three C-17 Globemaster IIIs transporting the 51st ESB to Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, as well as a six-ship formation of C-17s, which re-supplied 7th ID soldiers at Rainier Drop Zone and the airfield at Moses Lake, both "hostile" areas in Washington.

In addition to Washington and Arizona's roles as hostile nations, the exercise scenario had the state of Idaho stand in as a friendly nation - a nation that was quickly being overrun by ISIL-type forces.

Immediately after airdropping supplies to troops at Rainier Drop Zone, then delivering equipment to Moses Lake via air-land operations, the focus turned to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.  In the scenario, Mountain Home was an abandoned airfield in friendly territory which had to be taken over and reinforced before the quickly-encroaching enemy insurgents could get to it.

"It was very challenging to lead a large formation," said Capt. Ashley Deming, 7th Airlift Squadron chief executive officer, who was acting as the student mission commander for the six-ship airdrop formation. "Being in charge of the timeline execution and having to deconflict issues as they came up was very challenging."

Some of those issues Deming had to deal with were enemy surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft sites along the route.  Those threats meant that the formation had to execute high-speed, low-altitude ingress tactics in order to avoid enemy radar detection.

"Flying that fast and low and maintaining formation integrity, avoiding popup threats, and safely guiding the formation away from those threats can be really challenging," Deming said.

After the exercise was complete, Deming reflected on what she was able to take away from the exercise.

"I have a better understanding of how to manage a dynamic mission and how to plan for dealing with contingencies when things don't go as planned."

According to Hetrick, Deming's experiences gained from the exercise have a tremendous value, since the exercise was planned to closely mimic current real-world events that the aircrews could encounter on future missions.

At the conclusion of the exercise, Col. Stephen Snelson, 62nd AW vice commander, addressed the aircrews, telling them to share what they learned with their fellow airmen.

"Take these lessons you learned today and pass them on to your peers and onto future assignments," said Snelson. "Do not let this experience die with you."