Dobbins displays tactical airlift skills in Portugal

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Justin Clayvon
  • 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force Reserve ready forces were on full display as Airmen and C-130H3 aircraft assigned to the 700th Airlift Squadron, Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, deployed to Portugal to participate in Exercise Real Thaw 2019 Sept. 23-Oct. 4, 2019.


Real Thaw is a Portuguese-led, large-scale joint and combined force exercise held annually in Portugal. The training focuses on maintaining joint readiness while building interoperability capabilities between NATO nations. The purpose was to develop and integrate realistic interoperability tasks both in the air and on the ground between multinational units.


“Our role in the exercise is to be an airlift representation of what the U.S. would bring to a coalition fight,” said Maj. Aaron Brown, 700th AS mission commander for Real Thaw 2019. “Tactical airlift is our bread and butter mission in the Reserve so we bring air drop and landing capabilities to anywhere in a battle space.”


Approximately 50 Airmen assigned to the flying, maintenance and operations support squadrons, and two C-130-H3 aircraft from Dobbins participated in this year’s exercise along with military members from various NATO nations including France, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands.


The 94th Airlift Wing provided a majority of the resources dedicated to multi-ship formations with high to low profile airdrops, low-level flying, night vision goggle training, and heavy equipment and personnel airdrops.


Prior to flying, Dobbins loadmasters worked with Portuguese aerial porters on the flight line to load equipment and vehicles onto C-130H3 aircraft for airdrops and landing zone deliveries. The day-to-day operations and interactions on the flight line helped form strategic alliances and trust between the two allied nations.


“The Portuguese Airmen are advanced in their ground operations and we got the support we needed,” said Staff Sgt. Tyler Thomas, a 700th AS loadmaster. “They have also been great hosts to us during the entire exercise.”


Behind the scenes, other exercise participants planned different scenarios to simulate threats during the exercise. Intelligence officers played a significant role in creating these scenarios and provided daily briefings to the staff. Maj. Kerry Lyon, 94th Operations Support Squadron deputy chief of intelligence, integrated with his Portuguese counterparts daily.          


“This intelligence role is important because it dictates the mission planning,” said Lyon. “As we identify threats and make assessments on potential issues with flight plans, the pilots will change their plans accordingly to still meet objectives of the mission.”


No matter the rank, title or job, Real Thaw gave both U.S. and Portuguese Airmen the opportunity to practice providing mission-ready forces.     


“For us it’s all about the integration,” said Brown. “Working with a number of NATO countries allows us to see how they operate while they see how we operate as a U.S. force. In a real-world operation, we are usually not by ourselves and having this opportunity to practice together is the biggest takeaway.”