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NEWS | March 1, 2023

Cope North 23: Trilateral Integration at Iwo Jima Strengthens capabilities

By Staff Sgt. Ryan Lackey 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Ten U.S. Air Force airfield experts from Yokota and Andersen Air Base flew to the Japanese island of Iwo Jima to exchange skills with Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force partners as part of the Cope North 23 field exercise, Feb. 21-22.

Cope North 23 is a multilateral U.S. Pacific Air Forces-sponsored field training exercise focused on trilateral airborne integration for large-force employment, agile combat employment, and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) training.

More than 50 aircraft and 2,000 personnel from four nations participated in the overall exercise, with small teams spread out across seven remote islands.

The deployed Iwo Jima teams exchanged information about combat offload methods, airfield surveys, and asset security.

“Our experts are here to impart skills that advanced survey teams would employ in contested areas,” said Lt. Col. Paul Cooper, 36th Contingency Response Group deputy commander from Andersen. “Improving interoperability for a potential HA/DR event is what will make all mission partners more effective, should the call come.”

Combat offload training began immediately after members of the 36th Airlift Squadron landed a Yokota C-130J Super Hercules at the airfield, which consisted of manual techniques to safely move heavy cargo from an aircraft with minimal equipment.

“We refer to it as method ‘B’ for cargo offloads,” said Staff Sgt. Taylor Pate, 36th CRS aerial porter from Andersen. “Cargo still needs to be transported, even if there’s insufficient heavy equipment at a destination, so we employ a few methods to ensure we can deliver safely. Here, we showed our partners how to slide a pallet onto supports, in place of lift equipment.”

When there’s a demand to move aircraft and equipment to a new area, survey teams also deploy to verify the status of an existing installation and its operational capacity. Survey experts use specialized knowledge and tools to generate detailed reports that strategic planners then utilize to effectively mobilize forces.

“We taught our partner forces how to spot damage and generate detailed reports,” said Master Sgt. Yelida Del Valle Ruiz, 554th Red Horse Squadron contingency airfield pavement evaluator from Andersen. “It helps our partners by giving them more tools to check how safe an airfield is and what aircraft the airfield can handle.”

Cope North 23 put airfield surveillance techniques to the test and flew a combined 1,200 sorties across 10 airfields in the Pacific.

“I feel very confident working alongside our partner nation forces, as its very clear they’re serious about improving the mission and are eager to learn more about airfield operations,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Tate, 36th Airlift Wing religious affairs specialist who headed security training for the deployed team at Iwo Jima. “It’s important to exchange this knowledge to ensure the ability of joint teams to protect their assets as part of coalition forces in contested areas.”

Established in 1978 as a quarterly bilateral exercise held at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Cope North moved to Andersen AFB in 1999. It is U.S. Pacific Air Forces’ largest multilateral exercise.

For more information about Cope North and U.S. Pacific Air Force’s participation, call U.S. Pacific Air Force Public Affairs at (808) 448-3221 or (808) 221-6148.

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