Exercise Teak Action has strengthened the ties between Royal Australian Air Force’s No. 37 Squadron and its United States Air Force (USAF) counterparts. Held at RAAF Base Richmond from June 24 to July 2, the bilateral exercise focused on airborne operations to airfields across regional New South Wales. The USAF’s 353rd Special Operations Group (SOG) brought to Australia three MC-130J Commando II aircraft and about 100 personnel from the Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa. They flew complex training scenarios with No. 37 Squadron C-130J Hercules crews to deliver people and cargo under challenging circumstances, and bring them home safely.
“Their willingness to complete the quarantine as a condition of entry highlights the value they place on training with us, and in particular the importance of the relationship between Australian and US forces. Both parties learnt an immense amount and achieved a lot in a surprisingly short time, ultimately planning and integrating together as smoothly as two Australian units normally would. Despite the challenges that COVID-19 provided, I’m confident both teams are looking forward to the next iteration, and we’re really grateful for the time they took to come and work with us,” Commanding Officer No. 37 Squadron Wing Commander Anthony Kay said.
Both units have conducted annual training and other engagement activities together since 2016, although Exercise Teak Action was cancelled last year because of COVID-19 restrictions. No. 37 Squadron Wing Commander appreciated the 353rd SOG making the trip to Australia for the exercise. Exercise Teak Action included scenarios with No. 3 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and No. 1 Security Forces Squadron. RAAF aviators also received mentoring from highly experienced combat system operators (CSOs) in the 353rd SOG. An MC-130J CSO is responsible for operating communication systems, sensors and other specialist equipment, and No. 37 Squadron is trialling an additional crewperson to assist with workload management during complex missions.
The 353rd SOG Mission Commander Major Walter Mitchell said the commitment shown by personnel on Exercise Teak Action had been strengthened. The MC-130J flown by the 353rd SOG appears similar to the RAAF’s Hercules, but is equipped with specialist systems for its primary role of supporting special operations forces. Exercise Teak Action allowed the RAAF to develop its capabilities. Exercise Teak Action allowed No. 37 Squadron and the 353rd SOG to cooperate on joint operations, from providing humanitarian assistance to working in more complex scenarios. No. 37 Squadron will continue working closely with the 353rd SOG in the Northern Territory during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021.