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173rd Fighter Wing hosts first ever Cascadia Airlift Exercise

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Riley Johnson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing
Airmen from the 173rd Fighter Wing collaborated with C-130J Super Hercules military transport aircraft crews from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. for a multidepartment disaster relief exercise on Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, Ore., July 12, 2018.   

The four C-130J Super Hercules aircraft and Airmen from Arkansas arrived on Kingsley Field July 12th to participate in the three day exercise.

Airmen from the 173rd FW practiced airlift operations such as cargo movement and logistical planning that could be essential following an earthquake in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. 

“The purpose of (the exercise) is to address the current capabilities and limitations of Kinsley Field for disaster response,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Wright, 173rd FW wing plans officer.

Being the sole formal training schoolhouse for the F-15 Eagle, the 173rd Fighter Wing does not regularly work with cargo aircraft such as the C-130J.

“The challenge is that we are the F-15 (fighter training unit) and we don’t normally host airlift, “said Wright. “It was a blank slate and first proof-of-concept.”

According to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, the Cascadia Subduction Zone is a 600-mile fault that runs from northern California up to British Columbia. Approximately 300 years since the last quake, the fault line garners the potential threat of a magnitude 9 earthquake that could have a devastating impact on the west coast area.

“[The exercise] was first and foremost to address how Kingsley can be suited to respond to the Cascadia Subduction Zone,” added Wright. 

The 173rd FW has a dual mission of training F-15 pilots and serving the State of Oregon. This disaster preparedness exercise falls under the Oregon National Guard’s mission of "A ready force equipped and trained to respond to any contingency. When we are needed, we are there."

Additionally, the C-130Js flew with Oregon Air National Guard F-15 Eagles in Dissimilar Air Combat Training scenarios.  DACT provides pilots the opportunity to train with and against an aircraft different their own.

“We are taking advantage of having the C-130s here to do total force training between F-15s and C-130s, something that is traditionally not done in the two communities,” Wright said.

The 270th Air Traffic Control Squadron had the opportunity to practice loading their mobile equipment on to the C-130 as part of the exercise.  Major Michael Balzotti, 270th ATCS Commander, says this is something he saw happen first hand when responding to the Puerto Rico hurricanes. 

“This increases our readiness when time is a critical need,” Balzotti said. “When the time comes, we will already know what we are doing.”

The Airmen from the 270th ATCS teamed up the C-130J aircrew to load and unload a mobile tactical air navigation system to and from the aircraft.

This exercise paves the way for future, larger scale Cascadia exercises that incorporate other Federal, State, and local organizations.