If you've been wondering about all the activity in the skies over Guam the last couple of weeks, relax. The good news is that World War III is not starting, but military preparations certainly are with the Cope North exercise which began Feb. 14 at Andersen Air Force Base. More than 1,800 service members and approximately 50 aircraft from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Royal Australian Air Force and Republic of Korea Air Forces are involved.
The field training exercise features a full spectrum of fighters, bombers, transport, re-fueling and command and control aircraft from the U.S., Japan and Australia, designed to improve combat readiness, develop disaster response, and increase inter-operability between partner nations. Also as part of Cope North 14, the Republic of Korea Air Force is joining with the other nations to conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training.
"Cope North is a tremendous opportunity for nations in our region to train together at Andersen building a common set of tactics, techniques and procedures" said Brig. Gen. Steven Garland, 36th Wing Commander. "We live in a very dynamic region of the world and the Airmen participating this year in our largest Cope North to date, all recognize the value provided to the region from great team work.
"The flexibility and rapid response exhibited during the recent Philippine typhoon relief effort of Operation Damayan underscores the value of training opportunities during times of relative calm so nations are prepared to respond in times of crisis to support their nation," said Garland.
Exercise directors representing each nation's component all remarked on the uniqueness and quality of Andersen's infrastructure, facilities and the Central Marianas airspace the units will use during the two-week exercise.
"We have great facilities, great airspace here and this exercise is all about getting better, learning from each other and doing it safely," said Col. John Parker, U.S. Cope North exercise director and 35th Operations Group commander at Misawa Air Base, Japan.
The three participating countries each feature an exercise director, leadership teams, planning sections, aviators, maintenance and other support members, said Maj. Micah Bell, an exercise planner from 5th Air Force at Misawa. Through interoperability, the three teams each assume the lead on various operations throughout the exercise and work closely with their counterparts.
"Interoperability is a word that gets used often during this exercise," he said. "We take that very literally; we want to not only get safe, effective training, but also want to learn from our partners and share lessons learned."
The exercise is unique in that it combines air-to-air and air-to-ground combat training with allied partners and additionally incorporates a humanitarian aid and disaster response portion concurrently.
"We live in a region with lots of natural disasters," said Group Capt. Glen Beck, RAAF exercise director. "The (Australian Air Force) isn't very large, so we are always grateful for training opportunities; this is the largest international exercise we do and it's definitely the largest footprint."
Col. Hiroshi Kurata, serving as exercise director for JASDF, noted the significance of both training for disaster and building professional relationships.
"It's been three years since the earthquake hit eastern Japan and I appreciate all the support and cooperation we received during Operation Tomodachi," he said. "Additionally, I ask three things from all in attendance here: Do your best, enjoy your job and make as many friends as possible."
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