JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska –
Arctic paratroopers jumped from a C-17 Globemaster III piloted by a U.S. Air Force crew onto Malemute Drop Zone, Nov. 18, 2014. While this occurrence is not unusual, on this day there was also an Air Force presence on the ground.
The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division hosted Air Force leadership from the 3rd Wing, the 354th Fighter Wing, the 673rd Wing, and the 176th Wing to see airborne operations from the Army side of the story.
One of the leaders, Air Force Col. Rodney Lewis, vice commander of 3rd Wing, had experience in airborne operations, but only from the sky.
"This was the first time I'd seen an airborne operation like that before," Lewis said.
Lewis, a C-17 pilot, has delivered loads of cargo and paratroopers from the pilot's seat, but that's where their interaction ended.
"The more you know about each other's jobs, the better you can help each other because you know what your teammates need to be successful," Lewis said. "We are all driving toward the same goal, which is mission success."
After a briefing on the brigade's mission and capabilities, the Air Force leaders observed pre-jump and rigging procedures then flew to the Malemute Drop Zone. They observed C-17s dropping paratroopers and heavy equipment and were shown what the 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment's operations look like after they leave the aircraft. They watched a gunnery crew operate an M117 howitzer, discussed the work of a drop zone safety officer, and sampled the rare, but deliciously Alaskan, Arctic Meal Ready to Eat (MRE).
Col. Matthew McFarlane, commander of 4th Brigade, said though the two services work closely they don't necessarily appreciate what goes into each other's work. He remarked that the Air Force officers are military scientists who think from different angles than those in the Army.
Following the airborne procedures, the officers were introduced to some of what goes on following airborne operations: missions. The officers observed the 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment engage in close-quarters, live-fire training. The lead man on an assault team shot-gunned a door and the trailing members swiftly moved into a room, eliminating simulated threats. The officers watched from above, and in the enclosed space the action was deafening.
"What's your favorite part about this training?" one officer asked.
"The noise!" a paratrooper yelled.
The tour was completed with a trip to the range. The group was given a brief by 3/509 paratroopers on which weapons they use and why they use them. Then, they were given a chance to try them out.
As they were being transported back to Fort Richardson, they expressed interest in continuing familiarization with the ways of the paratrooper.
"Can we do this every day?" one officer asked.
"Sure," another replied, "in the Army."