Special ops airmen support exercise in Baltic region
ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England (AFNS) -- Members from the Air Force Special Operations Command and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command joined with Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian special operations forces (SOF) in Powidz, Poland, and Grafenwoehr, Germany, to participate in Trojan Footprint 16, a large-scale readiness exercise held May 3-22.
Airmen from the 352nd Special Operations Wing at Royal Air Force Mildenhall and Soldiers from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) took part in the exercise using Air Force MC-130J Commando IIs and CV-22 Ospreys, and Army MH-47 Chinooks. About 250 aircrew, maintenance and support personnel also participated, with a goal of increasing the capability to integrate and operate with U.S. and foreign SOF partners using the NATO Response Force 16 construct.
“It’s amazing to me what these guys were able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time,” said Col. Nathan Green, Joint Special Operations Air Component (SOAC) commander. “We were able to rapidly set up in two separate locations, work seamlessly with our foreign SOF partners and perform a variety of successful missions.”
The three-week exercise resulted in the SOAC completing over 45 sorties involving the supply and resupply of SOF personnel, infiltration and exfiltration training, air and personnel drops and other mission-essential functions to refine NATO Response Force processes and demonstrate the deployment and employment capabilities of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.
“We were able to deliver 200 tons of cargo, pass 70,000 pounds of fuel and drop over 500 SOF personnel,” said Senior Master Sgt. Herman Sargent, the Forward Aviation Detachment senior enlisted leader. “Our Airmen and Soldiers worked night and day to ensure the mission went off without a hitch.”
Continued operations in a deployed environment do not come without significant work, commitment and sacrifice on the part of not only aircrews but the men and women who support the fight.
“Our Airmen are the definition of dedication,” said Chief Master Sgt. Floilan England, the SOAC senior enlisted leader. “Whether it’s a training exercise or real-world scenario, we know that they’ll do what it takes to get job done, and they need to know that we’ll have their back.”
Trojan Footprint was linked to and executed concurrently with Estonia's annual national defense exercise, Dagger, and Lithuania's annual multinational SOF exercise, Flaming Sword. SOAC aircraft and personnel even took part in a joint, combined military demo in Pajuostic, Lithuania, to commemorate the seamless interaction between the partner militaries.
“This exercise was a stepping stone to bigger and better actions in the future,” said Col. Modestas Petrauskas, the Lithuanian special operations commander. “The joint work with other forces, engaging multiple agencies, all worked towards building capabilities in the Baltic region.”
By bringing together SOF from 10 different nations to train together as one military, the alliance and its partners demonstrated they are ready for and capable of dealing with any contingency set before them.