July 11, 1997 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Two wings from Hill Air Force Base joined forces earlier this week to support the Air Force's first no-notice exercise of its Air Expeditionary Force capabilities.
Approximately 150 men and women from Air Combat Command's 388th Fighter Wing and Air Force Materiel Command's 75th Air Base Wing received orders July 7 to ready a squadron of F-16 Fighting Falcons for rapid deployment to Eielson AFB
, Alaska. By July 9, Hill's people and aircraft were en route to Alaska to join with other Department of Defense units to form the 35th Air Expeditionary Wing, based at Eielson and Elmendorf AFBs, Alaska.
The 388th's 34th Fighter Squadron supplied the F-16s and most of the Hill people deploying. The remainder of the deploying force was drawn from other 388th FW units and 75th ABW units.
The 75th's Mobility Control Center was charged with processing the departing passengers, personal bags, equipment and other cargo to leave Hill on C-5 and C-141 cargo aircraft. This involved everything from updating emergency data information and getting any overdue shots to receiving briefings on safety, security and health issues at their destination.
Although the 75th ABW was tasked to deploy less than 10 people (aircraft fuels and security force specialists), Col. Carl Critchlow, 75th ABW commander, said the feedback he's received from senior leadership is that this week's event has strengthened the bonds between two great wings.
"While our numbers to deploy were much smaller, our fuels and security forces people were ready to go almost instantly," he said. "I told the 388th at the initial briefing that we were ready to go with them to the fight, not fight with them. I think this exercise showed we're able to do that pretty well."
"This is the future of our Air Force," said Col. Ronald Fly, 388th FW commander. "This is an important test for our two wings."
The Air Force has used the AEF
concept on five previous deployments, but this week's was the first no-notice AEF exercise. This was also the first time there has been joint service involvement in an AEF deployment.
In addition to Hill's people and aircraft, the AEF includes: U.S. Navy EA-6Bs from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, Wash.; Air Force F-15s from the 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla.; B-1s from the 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess AFB, Texas; B-52s from the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, La.; and F-16s from the 35th Fighter Wing, Misawa Air Base, Japan.
The 35th is serving as the lead unit, which means it is responsible for providing not only an F-16 unit, but also the support people for the exercise. Hill's role and that of the other participating forces is that of a support or dependent unit, taking only the resources and people to handle the flying mission of its F-16s.
After demonstrating the AEF capability, Hill people will remain in Alaska through July 26 to support exercise Cope Thunder '97. The exercise is a regular training mission involving multiple Air Force units, primarily from Pacific Air Forces, that tests the full spectrum of air power ability.