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100 sorties a day: Planning for Mobility Guardian 2017

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- A group of seven planners have been working to coordinate the 100 sorties a day that will be flying during this summer’s projected Air Mobility Command Mobility Guardian exercise here.

Maj. Sean McConville, 62nd Airlift Wing Mobility Guardian air planner and McChord C-17 weapons officer, has been the point of contact for the exercise at McChord, and thoroughly involved in all things airspace related.

“As we go through the airspace control plan, I want to bring everyone’s focus back to our statement going in, ‘We want to build an exercise where we train the way we fight,’” said McConville. “We’re essentially coming up with the airspace plan.”

Members of the planning team came from Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Altus AFB, Oklahoma, Dyess AFB, Texas, and Charleston AFB, South Carolina, to collaborate and create a final product for the exercise.

“Experts from the different mobility air forces weapons schools came together to figure out how we’re going to utilize the air space to meet our training objectives and also ensure that everything is safely de-conflicted,” said McConville. “So when we go down range we have plans that articulate how the air space is coordinated between the different coalition assets in the different areas of operation.”

The challenges facing the planners are plenty, but the group remains heavily optimistic in their ability to overcome those challenges.

“There a whole lot of moving parts,” said McConville.  

Those moving parts are the dozens of multi-national aircraft that will be flying during the exercise and numerous air traffic control towers that regulate the varying air space.  

Fortunately, McConville said Lee Alvarez, 62nd Operations Support Squadron air space management chief, has gone above and beyond to help in this process.

“Mr. Lee Alvarez has been incredibly helpful in ensuring the various air traffic control towers are on board,” said McConville.

McConville said that he is also extremely grateful for the support we’ve been given, particularly by Seattle Center.

The magnitude of this exercise is unprecedented for Air Mobility Command according to McConville.

“We’re looking at about 100 sorties a day out of McChord,” said McConville. “It will be the largest continuous exercise that we’ve ever launched out of here, and it will also be the first time we’ve worked with the combat air forces. As we see our mission set evolving down range, we’re trying to capture that in the exercise; it’s utterly essential.”

McConville said there is always room to improve training.

“We’re bringing crews from across the mobility air forces to get exposure and we are re-focusing some of the training programs to update the way we do business,” said McConville. “I’m grateful to the different wings for allocating these people who are all in high demand from across the mobility air forces to help us deliver on our promise to AMC and give them a worthwhile exercise.”

The goal is to have an exercise that reflects the mobility air forces evolving mission set, so that crews can go safely, execute and garner worthwhile lessons-learned.

One of the planners helping contribute to this plan is Capt. Mark Wilson, 39th Airlift Squadron chief of tactics at Dyess AFB and lead C-130 planner for Mobility Guardian.

His focus area is C-130-specific training objectives.

“This is the largest exercise I’ve been a part of,” said Wilson.  “So far I think it’s a big challenge for us to face, but one that needs to be done.”

Thousands of participants from all over the world and Air Force will be coming together for two weeks to validate this exercise. 

“We’re going to be able to do it and it’s going to be very beneficial,” said Wilson. “In the Mobility Air Forces and the rest of the Air Force we are very operationally focused on the present and this exercise will continue to refine those skills, but also focus on future potential adversaries that we don’t get to focus on at home station.

“What we definitely don’t get to do often is train with our international partners and in the event that we are called upon to do this in the real world, we’re going to do this alongside them, so getting to train with them in this controlled environment where we can develop and grow as a community is extremely beneficial.”