Airmen, Soldiers keep airplanes flying despite arctic climates

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing trained alongside Soldiers from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, during the Rapid Alaskan Airlift Week exercise at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Jan. 19 through 26.

 The week-long exercise is designed to optimize exercise opportunities in a cold weather environment for mobility Airmen and allow for sharing of tactics, techniques and procedures across the Joint Force. During the training, the Contingency Response Team primarily trained on deicing aircraft and practiced loading Mine Resistant All-Terrain Vehicles, Small Unit Support Vehicles, AH-64 Apache helicopters and Stryker Combat Vehicles. 

“Most of the training was focused on getting U.S. Army Alaska units familiar with their aircraft loads, so if faced with an accelerated deployment they will be better trained to deploy with minimal support,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jeremy Fisher, 821st Contingency Response Squadron operations superintendent. “It was also important for us not to just take control of the operations, but act in more of a facilitation role for USARAK units.”

During the exercise, Airmen and Soldiers worked together to effectively operate in arctic climates, with subzero temperatures as low as -30 F.  “Most of us have deployed and have operated in temps surpassing 100 F, but there is no comparison to operating in subzero temperatures, with snowfall, winds blowing, and decked out in bulky clothes…It's not fun at all, but the team did it all with ease,” Fisher said.


“Snow, frost and ice on the flight surfaces of an aircraft can lead to extremely hazardous situations during a flight,”   said Master Sgt. Desmond Carr, 821 CRS maintenance flight chief. “CR Airmen have to be ready to operate in a wide variety of climate conditions…severe weather conditions in Alaska, and specifically at Eielson, allowed us to operate in conditions that relatively few people have experience living in, let alone working in.”


According to Fisher, the maintainers at the exercise were challenged with the cold temperatures and snow more than anybody else on the team. “Despite being limited on equipment and deicing trucks, they were able to develop alternative deicing options to prevent aircraft from terminating at Eielson for weather holds,” he said.


“Most of the aircraft had three to four minute launch windows with our existing deice capabilities to prevent refreezing or snow accumulation,” Fisher said.  “There are not too many locations on this planet that would require that type of precision and timing.”


Throughout the training, the CRW received support from an Air Mobility Liaison Officer. During the exercise the AMLO’s role was to provide their expertise in landing and drop zone operations to assist and advise Army units for the safest, most efficient and effective way to use airlift provided by the Air Force.


“We teamed up with the AMLO at Fort Wainwright to identify how Eielson could be utilized as part of their mobility machine and identify what shortfalls in manpower and equipment exist in the event of a rapid deployment,” Fisher said. “For our team it was important to understand that there are other units out there that require a shortened deployment timeline and that these units require loading familiarization with their equipment.”


The exercise was another opportunity for USARAK Soldiers and CRW Airmen to train together and employ total force integration continuing to strengthen the joint force. 


“Anytime you can get a look at another services deployment process, become familiar with their cargo, or have an opportunity to mission plan together, it becomes value-added training,” Fisher said. “This exercise allowed us to learn how the Army prioritizes their movements, how one chalk affects another and the consequences of not sequencing correctly.”


“RAAW provided a unique opportunity to conduct rapid, robust CR operations in a very challenging physical environment with our joint partners,” said Lt. Col. Blaine Baker, 821 CRS commander. “Our SNCO-led team did an outstanding job moving our mobility mission and increasing our force’s full spectrum readiness, mental and physical toughness and discipline…Their efforts continue to ensure that we are ready to win any fight, any place, and at any time.”