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Bond between wing, RAF 'forged' during local exercise

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Susan Penning
  • 193rd SOW Public Affairs
Despite seemingly relentless rainfall, flight and maintenance crews from the 193rd Special Operations Wing and Great Britain's Royal Air Force successfully collaborated during the Keystone Forge bilateral training exercise hosted here May 10-18.

During the exercise, numerous RAF squadrons arrived on base to work beside 193rd SOW Airmen with the goal of increasing interoperability. The crews shared flying and maintenance tactics, techniques and procedures, as well as crew resource management methods. The RAF also conducted proficiency flying in the area.

"We welcome opportunities to work with the RAF," said Col. John Dickinson, 193rd SOW commander. "Exercises like Keystone Forge help foster our bond and further strengthen our interoperability, which has been an important component in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. I believe the valuable insight gained during this exercise enhances both our forces."  

The exercise was a continuation of the Operator Exchange Talks between the 193rd SOW and RAF that were established in August 2013 during an exercise at RAF Brize Norton, located in the Southeast region of England.

"From the Airmen supplying the fuel in the 193rd Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron to the aircrew in the 193rd Special Operations Squadron, Keystone Forge was made possible by countless organizations across base as well as outside units from the Air National Guard and active-duty force," said Major Ryan Ott, 193rd SOS  EC-130J pilot and exercise coordinator.

Members of the 193rd Maintenance Group hosted the RAF crew chiefs, provided aircraft ground equipment, and assisted with the launch and recovery of sorties. The 193rd Security Forces Squadron provided aircraft security and base access. The 193rd LRS supplied the fuel and aerial port support.

Aircrew from the 193rd SOW hosted and flew with the RAF aircrew and helped with flight planning in U.S. air space. Base operations also supported the flying operation each day of the exercise from 6 a.m. to midnight. And Detachment 1 at Bollen Range created realistic training opportunities using threat simulators.

Additional National Guard support for Keystone Forge came from the 258th Air Traffic Control Squadron, Johnstown, Pennsylvania; the 130th Airlift Wing, Charleston, West Virginia; the 101st Rescue Squadron, Westhampton Beach, New York; and the 104th Fighter Wing, Westfield, Massachusetts.

Active-duty support for the exercise came from the 305th Air Mobility Wing at McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey.

U.S. support for Keystone Forge was a key component in helping make the exercise a positive and useful endeavor for all troops involved.

"Working closely with the 193rd SOW has been a great experience for us," said Sgt. Rob Parnell, crew chief with the RAF 33 Engineer Squadron. "We've been spending a lot of time in Afghanistan, so it's nice to take a break and do this kind of training."

Although many United Kingdom RAF squadrons were involved, the major player in Keystone Forge was the RAF 47 Squadron. The 47 Squadron holds the sole responsibility of providing all Special Forces airlift capability for the U.K. exclusively using C-130J aircraft. Considering the 193rd SOW's EC-130J missions, the wing was a practical fit to work with the RAF in this exercise.

Historically, the 47 used its legacy C-130K aircraft for special operations missions. However, those legacy aircraft are slated to retire, so U.K. forces are now spinning up their C-130J aircraft to carry the special operations torch. This involves unique and difficult mission sets, which the RAF has only recently started using C-130J to accomplish, according to 193rd SOS personnel.

The Operator Exchange Talks that were fostered during the exercise at Brize Norton in August last year gave the U.S. and U.K. forces the chance to discuss lessons learned and observe each other in action. This most recent Keystone Forge exercise continued that training and collaboration.