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Black Knights deliver Combat Airlift at Swift Response ‘16


Two 19th Airlift Wing C-130Js and crews from the 41st and 61st Airlift Squadrons participated in Exercise Swift Response ’16, one of the premier military crisis response training events in the world for multinational airborne forces.


The exercise included more than 5,000 Soldiers and Airmen from Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United States, and took place in Poland and Germany.


“The 19th Airlift Wing is postured to rapidly respond with decisive tactical airlift capability anywhere, anytime,” said Lt. Col. Sarah Santoro, 41st Airlift Squadron commander. “It's imperative to prioritize participation in multi-national, joint exercises such as Swift Response to keep our joint warfighting skills fresh and ensure our Airmen are trained, prepared, and ready to answer the nation's call to respond to any crisis around the globe.”


Black Knight air crews returned June 15 and were involved in complex planning and mission execution with multiple international partners, multiple aircraft types, and multi-layered missions.


“Swift Response exercise gave our crews the opportunity not only to push themselves in a challenging, complex operation in an unfamiliar region, but they were put in positions of critical importance to the success of the overall exercise.  ” Lt. Col. Eric Westby, 61st Airlift Squadron commander said. “I think it was a great learning opportunity for our crews, but also a great chance for them to test their skills.”


The exercise reinforces the partnerships and interoperability vital for effective combat airlift.


“Partnerships like these are very important,” said Westby. “We need and rely heavily upon our international partners to accomplish everything from humanitarian relief and rescue missions to kinetic operations against ISIS and the Taliban.  International partnerships are not a luxury, they're an absolute necessity.”


The relationships cultivated today will pay dividends down the road in current and future operations


“Exercises such as Swift Response provide a critical opportunity to build and fortify working relationships between the services and our international partners, plus we're able to enhance our joint crisis response interoperability as an integrated multi-national team.  Notably, Airmen often develop professional working relationships with our partners that will be leveraged in future exercises or operations,” Santoro said.


Team Little Rock aircrews partnered with other teams from Dyess AFB, Texas, the West Virginia Air National Guard, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, the British Royal Air Force and Polish air force. They also worked closely with Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C. as well as other coalition soldiers. While staging out Bydgoszcz Airport, Poland, the aircrews are working with a Contingency Response Team of Airmen from Travis AFB, California, and Dover AFB, Delaware.


This year, Swift Response demonstrated the allies’ ability to respond to a crisis scenario from staging bases in both Europe and the U.S. within 18 hours of notification.  A battalion of the 1/82 Airborne  made a 10-hour transatlantic flight from Fort Bragg, North Carolina – including en-route refueling, mission planning and parachute rigging – to the exercise area near Torun, Poland.  Above Torun, they joined approximately 1,000 paratroopers from the British, 16 Air Assault Brigade and Polish 6th Airborne Brigade to conduct a multi-national jump on to a designated drop zone.  At the same time, the Europe-based 173rd Airborne Brigade deployed from staging bases in Germany to conduct airborne assaults on to training areas in the north of Poland.

The exercise transitioned to southeast Germany, where the multi-national airborne task force conducted a combat training center field exercise at the Army’s Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas.

Swift Response is one of a series of near-simultaneous exercises in eastern Europe this summer that demonstrates U.S. and allied capabilities and further supports assurance and deterrence measures in the region.  The airborne jumps and seizure of key terrain and bridge-crossings set the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force exercise Anakonda, as well as enabling the passage of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Cavalry Regiment as they move through the region toward exercise Saber Strike in the Baltics.