JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska –
Approximately 200 military aircraft filled the skies above Alaska Monday, signifying the start of the joint training exercise, Northern Edge 2015.
Hosted by Alaskan Command, NE15 brings together approximately 6,000 U.S. military service members in a joint-forces environment to prepare to respond to crises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
"Northern Edge is the premier combat exercise for joint forces ... anywhere in the world," said Air Force Col. Charles Corcoran, 3rd Wing commander and Air Expeditionary Wing commander for NE15. "The objective is to make sure our air combat forces are ready as a joint team and to be able to execute real world operations anywhere in the Pacific."
The exercise is designed to sharpen tactical combat skills, improve command, control and communication relationships, and to develop interoperable plans and programs across the joint force.
"It's really important to train like we are going to fight," said Air Force Lt. Col. Tim Bobinski, Northern Edge control group lead. "As most people know, anytime we go to war it's not going to be just the Air Force, Navy, Army or Marines, we are going to need to work together as a team."
Exercises like NE15 provide opportunities for the U.S. military to take advantage of a unique joint training environment so the military is prepared to respond to real world situations, Bobinski said.
"If we go into combat we are going to go as a joint team, so we need to be able to practice and exercise as a joint team." Corcoran said. "There are nuances that you just don't get to see when you are doing standalone service training. It really prepares us for anything that could happen."
Major participating units this year include U.S. Pacific Command, Alaskan Command, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pacific Air Forces, Marine Corps Forces Pacific, U.S. Army Pacific, Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, Air Force Materiel Command, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve Command and U.S. Naval Reserve.
Planning an exercise with such a broad joint interoperability has its challenges, Bobinski said.
"Each service has their own way of doing business and they do it very well when they're in their own service channels," he said. "Once they start trying to work together there is sometimes different [terms] being spoken that has to be overcome and different processes that are being used, which we have to come together and determine how we are going to execute them. "
Another reason this exercise is special is because of the location, Corcoran said.
"Alaska has some unique capabilities that you just can't find anywhere else," he said. "Because we value this place so much we are going to leave it better than we found it. Everyone who deploys here understands what a unique and rare opportunity this is and wants to be able to come back and continue to practice these skills."
Overall NE15 aims to prepare the nations joint-forces in training environment.
"We need to be able to go at a moment's notice anywhere in the world. "You aren't ready if you don't practice so we have to do these types of exercises for any contingences so we can protect America's interests around the world."