Ample Strike 2017 in the books

RAF FAIRFORD, U.K. -- A Total Force element trained together here from Aug. 28 through Sep. 8 in support of Exercise Ample Strike 2017, a Czech Republic-led live-fire exercise that offers advanced Air and Land Integration training to Forward Air Controllers, Joint Terminal Attack Controllers and Close Air Support aircrews. These personnel, often referred to as JTACS, help guide air combat from forward positions on the ground.

Members of the 307th Bomb Wing, 7th BW and 2nd BW all took part during the exercise in conjunction with 19 NATO allies and partners. The wings utilized two B-52 Stratofortress bombers and two B-1B Lancers during the exercise.

Lt. Col. Christopher Hawn, 307th BW detachment commander, said pilots and aircrew have been able to work with JTACS from NATO countries during Ample Strike.

“We have worked with JTACS both younger and older, experienced and inexperienced,” said Hawn. “Some are fresh out of their training and others are seasoned veterans having just returned from combat tours in Afghanistan a few weeks ago.”

He expressed the importance of working closely with NATO allies and partners in a forward environment.

“If you believe in training like you fight, then you have to be able to work with our international allies and overcome some of those language and cultural barriers that come with the territory and walk away with good lessons learned and good tactics should we ever have to come together in combat,” said Hawn.

Another aspect of Ample Strike 2017 is how it shows the United States commitment to other countries in the European theater.

“These are invaluable opportunities,” said Hawn. “Our allies in the region know we will be there when called upon and they know we have the capability to project power.”

The ability to assure allies in the European theater also paid dividends to the Airmen involved in the exercise, said Maj. Jesse Hildebrand, 93rd Bomb Squadron assistant director of operations.

“Just the logistical challenges involved in moving this much equipment and this many people across the Atlantic Ocean is a huge accomplishment for us,” he said. “When you combine that with operating in a different theater than what we are used to, it is a great, great way to train.”

For the active duty and Reserve Citizen Airmen involved in the exercise, training in the United Kingdom sometimes brought challenges that had to be overcome by utilizing the total force integration model.

Senior Airman Ramon Rivera-Rios, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron communications navigation systems specialist, said working with his counterparts in the Air Force Reserve definitely moved the mission forward.

“Logistics during this type of assignment are always an issue, so we when you don’t have a part or a tool that you might ordinarily have back in the U.S., then you can bounce ideas off of each other and start thinking outside the box,” he said.

Beyond logistics, the active duty and Reserve components had to work in ways that were different from the way they integrate at their home stations, said Tech. Sgt. Justin Mitton, 2nd AMXS aircraft hydraulics technician.

“At home active duty and Reserve are all in the same area, but we all have specific jobs and plenty of personnel to get them done,” said Mitton. “We are running lean out here so we have to be more efficient. Out here you still have your own job, but you also help out each other so the mission is accomplished.”

For Senior Airman Michael Howlett, 307th Logistical Readiness Squadron petroleum, oil, and lubricants technician, having total force integration model as the standard was especially helpful in a forward environment. Howlett, a Reservist, was teamed up with active duty members of the 7th LRS whom he had never met until the day he arrived in Fairford.

“It was a seamless integration,” said Howlett. “We all came from the same career field, it was just a matter of a different location.”