Nellis Airmen work behind the scenes to ensure exercise success
By SOF Editor on Wed, 11/25/2009 - 11:30am
Every year, Airmen here support the largest air mobility exercise in the United States. This Mobility Air Forces Exercise, or MAFEX, is essential in making sure both Soldiers and Airmen are prepared to coordinate jointly during overseas contingencies. The MAFEX is part of the U.S. Air Force Weapon School curriculum designed to culminate months of training that the students have received and challenge them to plan and execute a joint forcible entry airborne assault operation, integrating assets from across the world. During an exercise in which more than 40 planes and 1,500 people participate, it is easy to overlook the people behind the scenes who work to make this biannual event possible. During the most recent MAFEX, more than 400 Army Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., were parachuting from C-17 Globemaster IIIs at drop zones on the nearby Nevada Test and Training Range. It was important to take careful steps to ensure the safety of the Soldiers who are actively preparing to deploy overseas. To ensure the safety of the jumpers, some 30 medical personnel from Nellis were involved as first responders and to provide adequate transportation if someone should get hurt. Capt. Alex Keller, a 58th Rescue Squadron flight surgeon at Nellis AFB, was part of the medical contingent of flight surgeons and medical technicians available as Army personnel jumped out of their designated aircraft. "This acts as great integration practice for the operations we will be participating in overseas," Captain Keller said. "Nowadays, we in the Air Force are being asked to do more and more medical evacuation support for Army units. By helping with this exercise, we aren't just helping them in their mission, but also in ours to be prepared in case we have to work jointly with the Army in real-world contingencies." Safety coordination with the Air Force medical staff was important to the Soldiers making the jumps over the test range. "It's very easy to work with the Air Force," said 1st Sgt. Michael Ames, 173rd Calvary, Bravo Troop. "Even before we stepped foot on the planes to come to the range, we were given more than enough information to accomplish the mission at hand." Support personnel from Nellis scouted the exercise location a day early and set up three emergency helipad rally points in case an injured Soldier had to be evacuated from an exercise zone. "Our concern is the safety of the jumpers," said Tech. Sgt. Scott Piper, a 58th RQS medical technician. "Here at Nellis, we do these exercises quite often, so we are well equipped to handle a worst-case scenario possibility." "The Army is well-equipped to handle any injuries that may happen with their embedded medical staff," said Capt. David Pugh, a 99th Air Medical Squadron flight surgeon. "We are here to provide any transportation they might need." The test range staff continues to help accommodate the needs of Army and Air Force exercises. This Department of Defense asset was used continually during the recent mobility exercise. Personnel from the 98th Range Wing, who provide the maintenance and threat simulators on the 2.9 million acre range, also provide the support for each major exercise. "The (range staff) is phenomenal," said Capt. John Paul Kilker, a weapons school student participating in his first MAFEX. "It's a great training theater and the threats that they simulated provided an experience that I will not forget." "This range is exactly what we expected," Sergeant Ames said. "We were given adequate information from the 98th RNW such as what the drop zones looked like and what to expect in terms of wind conditions. Nellis really made this exercise run smoothly." With more than 40 cargo planes flying, the Nellis flightline had to be ready to accommodate the large aircraft. The Nellis transient alert crew worked overtime to make room for the aircraft just four days after the 2009 Nellis Open House. Nellis personnel continue to support MAFEX and the many other exercises that take place on the test range and help ensure that all servicemembers are ready to deploy overseas and work jointly to accomplish any mission at hand. "You get a new appreciation for the guys putting the exercise together behind the scenes ... after seeing it from both sides," Captain Kilker said.