MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
Military exercises bring teams’ strengths and weaknesses to light, providing vital feedback used to ultimately overcome challenges and stretch flexibility while executing the mission.
Exercise Northern Viper 17 did just that throughout the month of August, testing Team Misawa’s support readiness by bringing in more than 500 Marines and multiple airframes. The installation packs the capability to transform into a centralized hub for units to forward deploy, provide infrastructure for mobility and support medical care for mass injuries.
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Molly O’Malley, the Heavy Marine Helicopter Squadron 426 assistant operations officer with the Marine Air Group 36, 3rd Marine Air Wing, currently forward deployed under the unit deployment program with the 1st Marine Air Wing, said Misawa is geographically the best area because it is close to their training location.
“It allows us to transit from here to the training area in Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan, with enough fuel to get the mission done,” O’Malley continued.
Throughout the past month, Team Misawa provided everything the sister service needed in order to have a successful training experience, including use of Draughon Range.
“Draughon Range was a selling point for us,” said O’Malley. “It’s nice to get to work on our tactical flights and heavy external lifting. With the range, we also have the ability to do aerial gunnery. These are all essential skillsets we need to continuously work on to complete our missions.”
The 35th Operations Group weren’t the only ones supporting additional troops and assets on top of normal operations, which include being an active runway for Misawa Airport, facilitating incoming and outgoing cargo movement with the Air Mobility Command and running daily sorties for the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons. The 35th Medical Group worked to ensure they are prepared to play their part in mission readiness.
“Familiarity with the battlefront is crucial to the success of our mission,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Matthew Wilson, the 35th Medical Operations Support Squadron readiness officer. “In a contingency, Misawa Air Base would become a medical hub for all casualties or patients, as we would take in a significant amount of the patient load from across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”
Wilson added along with Misawa’s ability to accommodate mass injured personnel, they also have other means of making the 35th Medical Group a more pliable piece of the mission.
“Most of what makes our position unique is that we deploy in place, which allows us to be ready with little to no notice,” Wilson said. “Many of our capabilities are designed to support the deliberate expansion of a 22-bed hospital in steady state operations to that of nearly a 600-bed joint operation on Misawa Air Base in a matter of days.”
Although they are responsible for Misawa Air Base U.S. personnel and their families, the 35th MDG Airmen care for all additional patients requiring medical assistance.
“Included with our temporary Marine personnel, any military member who sets foot on this base has access to our medical facility and its services,” Wilson assured. “We built a strong reputation for taking care of our people and that won't stop because of a different uniform being present on base. At the 35th MDG, we operate on a ‘one team, one fight’ mentality and we display it every day through the level of care delivered to every person who walks through our doors.”
Misawa’s 35th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels management flight flexed its muscle as well for the Marine brothers and sisters visiting the base.
“Not including the Japan Air Self-Defense Force aircraft, we take care of everything fuel-related that hits the ground here,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Zachariah Coe, the 35th LRS fuels service center NCO in charge. “We provided more than 27,000 gallons of fuel for the Marines’ aircraft alone.”
They sent assets such as R-11 refueling trucks to the forward arming refueling point at Chitose Air Base, Japan, and can fuel various aircraft going in and out of the location for the training exercise.
“We’re getting face time with Japanese ground units and the U.S. Air Force, and I think communication is vital while working together to accomplish the mission, whether real world or training,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Sidney Schlosser, an HMH-462 flight equipment officer in charge. “Being able to shake hands, talk to each other and fully integrate with one another to accomplish the same goal is a rare exercise, which is why exercises like NV17 are essential to mission flow.”
Although Misawa is not currently in a contingency situation, anything can change at a moment’s notice, and U.S. Air Force Col. R. Scott Jobe, the 35th Fighter Wing commander, assured Team Misawa will be ready due to constant rehearsal through exercises such as NV17.
“The wing is 'running' now in regards to our annual training plan--it is meant to push our limits," Jobe said. "Exercises like Northern Viper challenge us in flexibility and readiness so we can secure large force mission objectives if needed in the future, protecting our allies and sustaining peace in this region for generations to come."
“Fight tonight,” the mantra heard throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific theater, resonates through Team Misawa, and whether it’s medical personnel prepping their facility for a mass casualty incident or operations teams coordinating with F-16 Fighting Falcons to share the runway for incoming, forward-deploying units, the wing upholds its end in providing as much assistance as needed for the security of the U.S. and its allies’ objectives.