Flying Jennies support joint force EUCOM exercise Swift Response

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Crews from the 815th Airlift Squadron and supporting personnel departed their home station of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, May 5, 2023, to travel to Europe for SWIFT RESPONSE 2023.

SWIFT RESPONSE is part of U.S. European Command’s DEFENDER 23 exercise that consists of over 7,000 U.S. and 17,000 service members from over 20 allied and partner nations and is designed with the intent to bolster readiness and interoperability between the U.S. and its NATO Allies.

“Being a reserve squadron with a lot of young new pilots, taking advantage of opportunities to fly and work in missions of this scale is imperative,” said Capt. Will Garey, 815th AS deputy mission commander. “Getting them this experience in a joint integrated missions environment in different places outside of the U.S. is important for their deployment readiness.”

The aircraft, crew and supporting personnel staged primarily at Aviano Air Base, Italy, with a small package of crews and maintainers kicking off the Flying Jennies’ operations at Zaragoza Air Base, Spain, from May 8 to May 10.

“Our mission in Zaragoza was to participate in a mass joint forcible entry operation consisting of hundreds of troops from multiple nations,” said Capt. Leesa Froelich, 815th AS pilot and aircraft commander for the mission. “Unfortunately the wind didn’t cooperate, so we weren’t able to execute the drop. Despite the no-go, anytime we can have that experience of coordinating and flying with fellow (U.S.) Air Force units and units from other countries; that is a benefit to our readiness.”

The multi-nation operation involved four C-17 Globemaster III aircraft assigned to the 62nd Airlift Wing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, two German Air Force Airbus A400M Atlas aircraft, an Italian Air Force C-130J, and an 815th AS C-130J, all loaded with paratroopers from the U.S., Spanish, Portuguese, and French Armies.

Providing close air support along the route were four A-10C Thunderbolts assigned to the 442nd Fighter Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

From there, operations continued for the 815th at Aviano where a crew, partnering with the 62nd AW C-17s, supported a container delivery system and personnel drop from Aviano to Anthofyoto, Greece, May 12.

“This time the weather cooperated and we were able to safely and successfully deliver ten pallets of cargo for the (Royal Netherlands) Army while the C-17s dropped U.S. and Dutch paratroopers and the Hellenic Air Force dropped Greek paratroopers,” said Froelich.

The success of the mission was a prime example of the theme of Swift Response: testing the exercise participants’ ability to conduct joint forcible entry airborne operations.

Following the CDS drop, a crew concluded the squadron’s Swift Response Operations with a mission over and around the Adriatic Sea.

“During the flight, the crew was able to establish connections with an airfield in an austere location that the entire U.S. Air Force can now use, facilitating future operations,” said Garey.

Of course, the mission doesn’t happen without the 35 support personnel that traveled. From maintenance to medical to intel, nearly ten non-flyer Air Force Specialty Codes supported the mission.

“SWIFT RESPONSE facilitated an invaluable experience for members of the 403rd Maintenance Group,” said Maj. Christine Manson, acting 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. “Unscheduled maintenance events created experience with dispersed operations and disciplined initiative. We created our own opportunities to facilitate maintenance across multiple locations within the EUCOM area of responsibility, including using a C-17 to move our personnel and equipment. The maintainers exuded professionalism, resilience, and dedication, and I could not be more proud.”

SWIFT RESPONSE wrapped up May 20, while DEFENDER will continue into June.

 “There were unexpected mission changes we had to work around, but overall, it was a great experience,” said Maj. Sam Bartron, 815th AS mission commander for the exercise. “It’s always great integrating with NATO and coalition partners, and we all were able to learn a lot from each other. We look forward to future exercises like this.”