JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – Australian accents were heard aboard U.S. aircraft, and vice versa, as international aviators participated in exercise Global Dexterity May 2-13.
C-17 Globemaster III crewmembers from the Royal Australian and U.S. Air Forces shared aircraft as they carried out a series of airdrop and airlift procedures, validating the effectiveness of bilateral aircrews from partnered nations.
The multinational training environment was allowed under the Interfly Agreement, an international proclamation established during the Aerospace Medical Association Conference in 2012 to promote and support cooperation and interoperability between nations.
"It's been a great proof-of-concept," said Royal Australian Air Force Flying Officer Daniel White, 36 Squadron pilot. "The training we all go through is so similar that you can jump in another country's C-17 and operate it the exact same way. The checklists and everything are the exact same, and it's just been an incredible experience."
Local airlift operations usually are carried out in a total-force environment, entailing members of the Hawaii Air National Guard's 204rth Airlift Squadron flying the same aircraft as their active-duty partners from the 535th AS. Global Dexterity pushed the longstanding associates to extend their mutual trust and strong working relationship with their Australian partners as the participants executed complex flying sorties throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
Maj. Jeremy Smith, 535th AS standards and evaluations chief, said interoperability between RAAF and USAF members began well before each takeoff. Maintenance teams from both nations serviced one another's aircraft and bilateral intelligence specialists worked together to develop robust tactical scenarios for crews to use throughout the exercise.
Aircrew members also utilized the Hawaii ANG's 169th Air Defense Squadron to run real-time scenario scripts, creating layers of complexity and dynamic-threat reactions while flying through the island chain.
"The first iteration of Global Dexterity [in 2019] was all about getting administrative aspects squared away so that we can test out the Interfly Program," said Tech. Sgt. Josh Moracco, 204th AS loadmaster and ground operations area planner. "But this time around, we ramped things up quite a bit and we are, no kidding, practicing exactly how we play."
Exercise participants executed low-level formations, airdrops, static line jumps with U.S. Army Soldiers, night flying, tactical landings and rapid delivery of fully loaded aircraft.
Some of the cargo movements to Hilo on the island of Hawaii made a direct impact on the U.S. Army training initiative. One payload, consisting of about 35 tons of vehicles, equipment and passengers, enabled Soldiers to prepare for an air missile exercise called Tenacious Archer.
Each training mission consisted of crew members allocated throughout three airframes - two U.S. aircraft and a third belonging to the RAAF. Some flights entailed U.S. and Australian pilots flying side-by-side in the same cockpit. Other flights entailed one country's air force covering the loadmaster positions in the rear while their bilateral partners flew in the front.
"This is all about building camaraderie and building partnerships," said Moracco, "which is a huge deal in our organization. Getting to know people, names, faces; it all makes a huge difference when operating together and accomplishing a common goal."
Planning is underway to continue the bilateral training curriculum in Australia, with the RAAF hosting U.S. aircrew.
"This just proves that if you need bodies, if you need 'iron,' our friends can come out and support us, or we can help fill in for them, and it would be completely seamless," said Moracco. "We're all out here sharing the same Pacific Ocean, so no matter where we go, East or West, we can easily join up. And at this rate, I can see the two nations answering the call together when their teamwork is needed."