1st SOW completes training objectives for Southern Strike
By Senior Airman Jeff Parkinson, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 09, 2016
GULFPORT, Miss. -- Air Commandos with the 1st Special Operations Wing completed the last day of their joint training missions to wrap up Task Force Exercise Southern Strike here Nov. 3.
Southern Strike is an annual, large-scale, conventional and special operations exercise hosted by the Mississippi National Guard at the Gulfport Combat Readiness and Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Centers.
“126 personnel are TDY here to Mississippi,” said Lt. Col. John Ross, commander of the Joint Special Operations Air Detachment for Southern Strike. “Additionally, aircrews with the AC-130U, U-28, MC-130H and CV-22 aircraft are supporting the exercise, with maintenance support coming from the 1st Special Operations Maintenance Squadron [at Hurlburt Field]. All together [the 1st SOW] has close to 200 people working to make the exercise a success.”
On a day-to-day basis, liaison officers from each flying unit would plan and coordinate air support for partners from the Army, Navy and Marines special operations forces to meet training objectives.
“This provides us the opportunity to train with our joint partners we don’t normally get to see,” said Capt. Theodore Reichs, a liaison officer for the 15th Special Operations Squadron. “We can’t necessarily call these guys up on a day-to-day basis and have them come work with us at Hurlburt Field, so this gives us a great opportunity to see their capabilities and show off our own, while practicing interoperability.”
During the exercise 1st SOW aircraft flew various training missions such as infiltration/exfiltration, high altitude low opening jumps and live-fire air support.
“First and foremost is our individual service training, but when you participate in other exercises it’s very common to work with other services,” Ross said. “So the more chances we get to interact with those joint partners and build those relationships, we take advantage of that and let our people get to know their customer.”
On the final day of the exercise, the 1st SOW provided air support for a non-combatant evacuation operation with U-28s, MC-130s, and CV-22 aircraft. Air Commandos worked with various Air National Guard units to support Navy SOF units conducting the evacuation.
“This exercise afforded Airmen the opportunity to learn and solve problems in a controlled environment, gather lessons learned and apply them to their own personal leadership growth,” he said. “As I told the Airmen, leadership is not just a top-down endeavor, it is also a bottom-up and lateral engagement. Each individual has opportunities to lead and follow, and I'm confident they capitalized on those engagements.”