MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Mobility Airmen from the 6th and 927th Air Refueling Wings participated in a joint readiness exercise here Aug. 26-28, 2020.
The exercise tested Team MacDill’s ability to rapidly deploy and conduct air-refueling operations while complying with real-world COVID-19 pandemic countermeasures.
Through robust and relevant training, the exercise is designed to build readiness and develop Mobility Airmen to ensure they deliver rapid global mobility now and in the future.
“The goal of this exercise is to validate our mission plans and allow units an opportunity to train their Airmen in a non-graded environment, which allows for more training and a focus on processes instead of a graded inspection,” said Lt. Col. Michael Mayo, 6th ARW deputy chief, wing plans and programs. “This is the first exercise of its kind we’ve conducted since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, and is designed to prove we can accomplish the wing’s primary mission under any challenge or circumstance. We are staying sharp by training so we stay ready to act in the defense of our nation.”
Each unit within the Total Force team were tested during the exercise. Facemasks and social distancing were required by all while completing their individual tasks and unit mission sets.
“Smaller numbers of personnel participating in the exercise due to the coronavirus make communication more challenging,” added Mayo. “More separation of aircrews means more space is needed and masks make everything harder—they are not fun to wear, but are necessary.”
The 6th and 927th Maintenance Group's mission during the exercise is to generate aircraft and perform all off-equipment and in-depth on-equipment maintenance to include periodic inspections and component repair of MacDill’s assigned KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft.
“In its simplest form, this is a test of our readiness,” explained Col. Wes Adams, 6th Maintenance Group commander. “And in this case, we’re testing how quickly and how consistently maintenance can deliver aircraft to the fight. Imagine pulling the handle on a fire alarm and waiting thirty minutes for the sprinklers to activate or for the alarm to sound. That’s too late. We’re here to prove that, if you have to break glass in case of emergency and pull that fire alarm, maintenance will be there ASAP with the exact capability you need.”
In addition to the wearing of face coverings and maintaining social distancing during COVID-19, Airmen must overcome additional unique challenges during the exercise to be successful.
“A 12-hour shift in the heat is a significant challenge alone, especially if an aircraft was closed up and baking in the Florida sun,” explained Adams. “If you factor the manual labor of turning wrenches, mask-wearing and manpower reductions from COVID-19, you realize something amazing is taking place when we keep a 60-year old aircraft flying.”
This exercise is significant not only because it provides Team MacDill with an opportunity to practice to rapidly deploy resources around the globe, but also because it demonstrates that MacDill Airmen are capable of completing their mission even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We just supported a significant aircraft and flying squadron deployment to the AOR, then immediately followed with a potential hurricane evacuation,” added Adams. “Three days later came a readiness exercise for our number one priority. A day later, we rolled into full-spectrum readiness training, and a day after that, supported a critical training plan with our Reserve partners in the 927th. If for some reason this particular exercise didn’t test our readiness, 2020 has.”
Unmatched Rapid Global Mobility exists because of the ready and resilient Airmen who execute the mission day in and day out. Training exercises such as this are critically important to ensuring the readiness of Airmen today and tomorrow.
“We should all be so lucky to have a friend we can call day or night, for any reason, especially in a crisis,” said Adams. ”The KC-135 serves that function for our nation. Whether they knew it or not, countless Americans and allies got out of a pinch because a KC-135 was in the response chain. It is the ultimate Wingman—faithful, venerable, reliable. We’re proud to continue that heritage.”