HYAKURI AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen assigned to the 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan, and paratroopers with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, 1st Airborne Brigade, conducted a jump training mission over the Ojoji drop zone, Japan, July 8 and 9.
“Bilateral trainings are important because it enhances our warfighting capabilities,” said Capt. Nick Bonner, 374th Operations Group executive officer and bilateral jump training mission commander. “The more we understand each other, the more we will increase our interoperability to go out and fight as a team.”
Over the course of the exercise, approximately 120 JGSDF paratroopers trained with over 20 Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialists, and C-130J Super Hercules pilots, loadmasters and jumpmasters.
The mission focused on maintaining jumper qualifications, personnel drops and communication, host nation coordination and the verbally initiated release system.
“VIRS is an alternate airdrop method often used by the JGSDF,” said Bonner. “Instead of the pilots using the aircraft navigation to get to a release point, JGSDF on the ground are the navigation, telling us to steer left or steer right, and giving the command ‘execute, execute, execute,’ signaling the “green light” for jumpers.”
When the C-130 reaches prime altitude, the side doors of the cargo bay open and ready for the JGSDF paratroopers to jump. The ability to hear and verbally communicate with them is nearly impossible—this is where hand signals are absolutely necessary.
“Hand signals are essential to making sure the paratroopers and the aircrew are communicating correctly, thus allowing for proper jump timing and execution,” said Tech. Sgt. Barney Barnette, 36th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. “Part of the training we did included establishing similar signals between the jumpers, loadmasters and jumpmasters.”
Despite some unique challenges faced during the training sortie, such as weather, language barriers and COVID-19 precautions, the personnel involved were able to overcome them together and accomplish the objective.
“The over-all mission was a 100 percent success,” said Bonner. “When face-to-face with [the JGSDF paratroopers] you can tell they’re warriors just like us. They’re excited to jump, they want to jump, they want to be successful and interoperate with us. That was refreshing to see.”