TINIAN, Mariana Islands –
A team of Airmen from Yokota Air Base, Japan, traveled to Tinian, Mariana
Islands Jan. 28-31, to prepare the Baker landing zone for Cope North 2015, a
humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise.
The intent of the
trip was to clear and validate the landing zone utilizing personnel and
equipment from the 36th Civil Engineer Squadron at Anderson Air Base,
"The Baker landing zone will serve as the spoke for the Cope North
exercise, which is conceived by 5th Air Force, the 36th Contingency Response
Group and the participant forces," said Capt. Mark Nexon, Cope North mission
commander. "The exercise is modeled on the collective experience of personnel
who flew and directed missions during Operation Damayan in the
Operation Damayan was a humanitarian assistance response to
the Philippine government in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in Nov.
Clearing the landing zone took more than simply cutting grass. To
complete the project, the team worked together with several local and federal
agencies to include Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Commonwealth Northern
Marianas Islands, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and local government on the
island of Tinian.
The mission, set to be a one or two day endeavor, took
"Tinian is a jungle," said Capt. Keri Morris, 36th Airlift
Squadron pilot. "We didn't fully appreciate how much the trees and shrubbery
would encroach onto the runway, but CE did an amazing job plowing through it
despite the challenge."
Nexon added, "Everything was happening in real
time so we had to adjust our aim and our focus. As we came across problems we
had to increase our coordination with the locals, even to contract a
While the mission provided an opportunity to build
relationships, it also prompted Airmen to work strategically.
challenge in today's Air Force is that resources are limited, which means we
need to save money where we can," Nexon said.
As such, the team utilized
the mission to also accomplish training. Training included theater
indoctrination for a new co-pilot in the 36 AS, a navigator over-seas check ride
and the loadmasters operated in a location without Air Mobility Squadron support
to load and unload unfamiliar cargo.
But training won't stop
"Clearing this landing zone will make it possible for crews to see
an unfamiliar and unimproved landing zone," Morris said. "This is unparalleled
training that cannot be replaced by simulating similar landings on larger
Taking the time to prepare the landing zone will benefit more
than this aircrew.
"Our dedication to making sure the landing zone is
open not only for ourselves, but also for our partners only emphasizes our
commitment to our allies and that their capabilities are just as important to us
as our own," Nexon said.