U.S. aircraft returned to Kadena after participating in Exercise Cope North

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U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron prepare to depart after receiving an in-flight fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during Cope North 2017, Feb. 16, 2017. The exercise includes 22 total flying units and more than 1,700 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable relationships within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region through integration of airborne and land-based command and control assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith James)

Airmen and aircraft from Kadena’s 67th Fighter Squadron, 909th Air Refueling Squadron, 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron, and 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron returned to Kadena after participating in the 88th iteration of Exercise Cope North. The exercise was held at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Exercise Cope North Guam aims to cultivate regional ties and seeks to
enhance the U.S. Air Force’s interoperability with allied forces in the
Pacific. The bilateral exercise is designed to enhance joint operational
capability alongside 22 flying units from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Royal Australian Air Force, and the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.

With more than 2,700 personnel and 100 aircraft, Cope North challenged partner forces to integrate their local capabilities with other friendly units.

“Large exercises are the best opportunity for us to train to our primary
mission,” said Lt. Col. Michael Adams, 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron exercise commander. “Our home station training provides the building blocks we need to conduct major combat operations, but it’s only at exercises like Cope North that we get to bring it all together and fight through the chaos and complexity we would face in battle.”

Daily combat scenarios were held to develop fighting tactics and
war-fighting integration. Fighter airframes, such as the F-15 Eagles from the 67th FS teamed up with allied aircraft to simulate fights against F-16 Fighting Falcons from Misawa Air Base, Japan, and Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

Command and control and tanker assets also played a vital role in each leg of the training. KC-135 Stratotankers from the 909th ARS provided aerial refueling to both friendlies and ‘opponents’ alike, nearly doubling the in-air training time.

The 909th ARS flew 23 sorties and offloaded more than 1.1 million lbs. of fuel to 180 receivers during the training, ensuring that Airmen remain ready to support U.S. partners in a wartime scenario.

“This was a great opportunity for us to learn, especially for the younger
Airmen who have never deployed before,” said Capt. Joseph Schmerber, 909th ARS pilot and exercise planner. “I’ve deployed six times and can definitely say this is what it’s like when we fly out there. We all gained a tremendous amount of knowledge to take back to the home unit and I’m confident that also applies to everyone who participated in Cope North.”

This year’s iteration of Cope North also included aeromedical evacuation training among Airmen from each nation to enhance their ability to work together when providing humanitarian aid for natural disasters.

The 18th AES practiced life-saving skills by transporting and caring for
simulated patients on each other’s aircraft. The medical training was
designed to make aeromedical evacuation operations more flexible and
proficient while working with counterparts and their foreign platforms.

“It was a great exercise,” said Capt. Warren Carter, 18th AES flight
evaluator from Kadena Air Base, Japan. “Not only did we have the capability to do our interoperability training, but we also built some good friendships and partnerships. This is just the start of greater things to happen; not only in the exercise but actually in real-world missions.”

While each unit has their own specialized mission set, participating Airmen from all backgrounds were involved in building friendships and partnerships to form a stronger alliance and promote peace and stability throughout the Indo-Asia Pacific.

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