Hickam airlift squadrons participate in Balikatan 2016
By Tech. Sgt. Andrew Jackson, 154 Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 22, 2016
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Airmen and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from the active duty 535th Airlift Squadron and Hawaii Air National Guard 204th Airlift Squadron returned home to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after participating in exercise Balikatan 2016.
Balikatan is an annual bilateral exercise designed to increase interoperability between the U.S. and Philippine armed forces with this year's iteration running through mid-April throughout various regions of the Philippines.
The squadrons supplied airlift support and completed high and low altitude package delivery. Airmen had the opportunity to complete real world hands-on training unique to the international airspace that surrounds Clark Air Field in the Philippines.
"I have learned a lot about what goes into a deployment, from the coordinating, and communication." said U.S. Air Force Capt. Brandon Chang, Balikatan project officer for the two squadrons. "Because I was doing the planning I did not fly as much but I know that all the other guys gained experience in a variety of air operations."
In addition to providing airlift support to an A-10 Thunderbolt II squadron from Osan Air Base, the crews flew a wide variety of missions during the exercise such as static line air-drop, high altitude low opening, equipment drop, low altitude maneuvers, and provided a high mobility artillery rocket system move for U.S. Marines. Another mission highlight was a mass causality air evacuation where U.S. Air Force pararescue airmen worked side by side with Armed Forces of the Philippines rescuers to care for simulated casualties while inflight to a safe location.
To overcome communications difficulties on the flight line, tower liaison officers from the Hawaii Guard assisted Philippine air traffic control personnel.
Throughout the exercise, the two squadrons functioned as a well-blended unit with no distinction between active duty and guardsmen.
Philippine topography provided the air crews and maintenance airmen the opportunity to work through a variety of missions and gain training not normally available at home station. Missions where flown daily for a two-week period to give the aircrews time to grow in their skills and experience.
"It is our job to better our skills and to get a different view of operations while working with different agencies while coordinating with the Armed Forces of the Philippines." said Chang. "All of the skills we gained during this exercise will pay high dividends in the future."