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NEWS | Dec. 20, 2013

Hickam Airmen Partner with 25th Infantry Division for VALEX

By Staff Sgt. Terri Paden 15th Wing Public Affairs

A team of Airmen from the 535th Airlift Squadron recently paired up with Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division for a validation exercise to confirm the unit's ability to rapidly deploy a contingency response force from Wheeler Army Airfield Dec. 16.

The unit loaded two HUMVEES and 35 Soldiers into a C-17 Globemaster III for the VALEX, which was the first of its kind to be conducted from Wheeler.

"We just needed to see how feasible it was ... if it was possible," said Army Capt. Adam Thompson, 5th Battlefield Coordination Detachment ground liaison officer, of the VALEX. "We've done them before from other locations but we wanted to see how much time it might save and if this could be another site troops could be deployed from."

Thompson said successful completion of the exercise was evidence of the great work of two phenomenal units.

"As we continue to deal with the dwindling budget we're going to have to be more creative in how we solve problems and this is just one way we can do it by using our local aircraft and local flying hours to support the 25th ID," said Col. Michael Merritt, 15th Operations Group commander.

Merritt said the flight was a historical event for the 15th Wing and highlights the continued great relationship the wing has with the 25th ID.

Though the VALEX took only a few hours from start--processing the personnel in preparation for their simulated deployment--to finish--loading the Soldiers and equipment onto the airplane--the mission was actually a culmination of nearly a month of coordination.

"Overall it went really well," said Maj. Ken Kirkpatrick, aircraft commander and 15th Operations Group chief of standard evaluations. "Execution is the easy piece, planning takes the most work. The execution is what we do all the time, it's what we train for ... what we did today."

Though there were a lot of moving parts, Kirkpatrick said the highlight was getting a chance to work closely with their ground counterparts--an opportunity that is quickly becoming a common occurrence as Hickam units partner with the Army and Navy to jointly accomplish the mission.

Although the relatively short runway at Wheeler, 5,600 feet, added a unique dynamic to the flight, by all accounts it was a successful operation.

"We proved that we can land in what is probably a more difficult place to land at," said Merritt of VALEX. "We proved that we can do that and we can do it successfully. It was a good flight--good sortie."

This article was originally published at: http://www.pacaf.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123374919

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