Three U.S. Air Force Airmen make final preparations for a 37th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules aircraft out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to drop 16 Polish special forces members at an abandoned runway near Biala Podlaska, Poland, during Aviation Detachment Rotation 21-4, Sept 15, 2021. This operation is the culmination of precision work to secure a drop zone and landing zone with the Polish special forces, executed by a cross-functional, rapidly deployable U.S. Air Force team designed to assess and open airbases and perform initial airfield operations enabling rapid standup of combat operations anywhere.
“We go in light, and when the operation is done, we can get out quick. This is why our team exists. My mission and responsibility as an air traffic controller is to ensure the safety of arriving and departing aircraft, while expediting the flow of air traffic. Additionally, I am responsible for the safety of personnel and equipment being dropped and that they drop in the correct location. Each time we come to Poland, Polish forces increase their capabilities, and I’m here on the ground with them to make sure everything goes seamlessly,” said Tech Sgt. James Supernault, 435th Contingency Response Group air traffic controller.
“Before we get to a location, we look at imagery and prior surveys for anything that may present big issues to our aircraft or personnel. When we arrive on location, we get eyes on and assess anything that could pose a safety hazard,” said Tech Sgt. Benjamin Stewart, a 435th Contingency Response Group airfield manager.
“We are still in the process of building the combat controller competency in the Polish military. This exercise gives us an opportunity to learn and share information,” said Lucas, Polish special forces combat controller section commander.
Supernault and his team provide operational guidance on this competency to Polish special forces members as they demonstrate their ability to open an airfield, off load assets and prepare a rapid and safe departure of aircraft. The 435th Contingency Response Group (CRG) team can assess the validity of an airfield anywhere, and the work starts far before the team receives their first aircraft. The team assesses both the safety above and below the ground. As a three-man team, Supernault, Stewart and Paynter, shared their knowledge with Polish special forces members, and successfully secured both the landing zone and drop zone for this exercise.
The interoperability between U.S. and Polish forces continues to play an important role in NATO mission readiness. Aviation Detachment Rotations are bilateral training exercises and deployments designed to enhance partner interoperability, maintain joint readiness, and assure our regional allies. These events occur across the U.S. European Command area of responsibility, and U.S. aircraft and Airmen have participated in these rotations since 2012. This exercise is a chance to build self-confidence and breadth of knowledge about combat control work, both team have the opportunity to learn from the best teachers, because the U.S. is the world leader in this kind of work.