WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii - The 25th Infantry Division from Schofield Barracks and 535th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam conducted a validation exercise for their contingency response force on Wheeler Army Airfield, Monday, Dec. 16.
The joint Army and Air Force exercise began on two different Oahu military installations, with soldiers and vehicles mobilizing from the 25th ID at Wheeler as C-17 aircraft crew chiefs from JBPHH conducted preflight checks.
“This [Wheeler Army Airfield] is the mobility deployment facility, the processing facility where the equipment and personnel get manifested, equipment gets weighed, marked, joint-inspected, which means everything is flight worthy,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pettengill, ground liaison officer, 5th Battlefield Coordination Detachment, 15th Wing at JBPHH. “It’s the beginning process of the whole response. It’s very important, it alleviates a lot of problems.”
According to Pettengill, it’s a great way for the 25th ID to train in the case they need to rapidly deploy to the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, the 535th and their C-17 is able to participate as well, which provides real world experiences, instead of simulated exercises.
“We can only do so much with simulation,” he continued. “This gives the soldiers hands-on training, teaches them the whole process and gives them a better understanding of what actually has to be done in order for them to deploy.”
While the soldiers at Wheeler were preparing the equipment and the personnel, the 535th Airlift Squadron was busy at JBPHH, getting their C-17 off the ground. With the small size of the airfield at Wheeler, it is definitely not something that happens every day.
“This is a great training opportunity,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Logan Sutton, air mobility liaison for the 25th ID’s 25th Air Support Operations Squadron. “It is very important and huge to bring the C-17’s capability here to Wheeler and Schofield Barracks.”
Commander, 15th Operations Group U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Merritt agreed. “This is a first for the 15th Wing to be able to support the CRF from the 25th ID, for them, to prove, just on a validation exercise, where they wanted to go on a short time period that they could get out of town. It’s a pretty historic event for the 15th Wing and we have a great relationship with the 25th ID … we’re trying to forge that partnership as we go forward.”
While the wheels of this exercise have been in motion for about the last year, it took one day to come to fruition. Working together, the 25th ID and the 535th Airlift Squadron proved, if duty calls – they can answer.