435 CRG practice like they play in Saber Strike 17

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group watch a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle suspended from a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook for the 435th CRG’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG Airmen rigged the HUMVEE to the Chinook and were watching to make sure it had been rigged properly. Saber Strike 17 highlights the inherent flexibility of ground and air forces to rapidly respond to crises allowing for the right presence where it is needed, when it is needed. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group watch a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle suspended from a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook for the 435th CRG’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG Airmen rigged the HUMVEE to the Chinook and were watching to make sure it had been rigged properly. Saber Strike 17 highlights the inherent flexibility of ground and air forces to rapidly respond to crises allowing for the right presence where it is needed, when it is needed. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group prepare a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle to be picked up by a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook for the 435th CRG’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG Airmen practiced rigging the HUMVEE and a bundle multiple times to practice for a sling load operation. Saber Strike 17 continues to increase participating nations’ capacity to conduct a full spectrum of military operations. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group prepare a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle to be picked up by a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook for the 435th CRG’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG Airmen practiced rigging the HUMVEE and a bundle multiple times to practice for a sling load operation. Saber Strike 17 continues to increase participating nations’ capacity to conduct a full spectrum of military operations. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group hold a hook to be attached to the bottom of a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook for the 435th CRG’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG Airmen worked alongside the U.S. Army and NATO military members throughout the exercise. The combined training opportunities that Saber Strike 17 provides greatly improve interoperability among participating NATO allies and key regional partners.  (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group hold a hook to be attached to the bottom of a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook for the 435th CRG’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG Airmen worked alongside the U.S. Army and NATO military members throughout the exercise. The combined training opportunities that Saber Strike 17 provides greatly improve interoperability among participating NATO allies and key regional partners. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group hook a bundle to the bottom of a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook for the 435th CRG’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The Chinook raised and then set down the bundle, allowing for a new team of 435th CRG Airmen to practice rigging the bundle next. The combined training opportunities that Saber Strike 17 provides greatly improve interoperability among participating NATO allies and key regional partners.  (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group hook a bundle to the bottom of a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook for the 435th CRG’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The Chinook raised and then set down the bundle, allowing for a new team of 435th CRG Airmen to practice rigging the bundle next. The combined training opportunities that Saber Strike 17 provides greatly improve interoperability among participating NATO allies and key regional partners. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Edgar Cerrillo, 435th Security Forces Squadron Ground Combat Readiness Training Center instructor, gives hand signals to a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook for the 435th Contingency Response Group’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. 435th CRG Airmen connected a bundle to the Chinook to practice properly rigging cargo for a sling load operation. Saber Strike 17 promotes regional stability and security, while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Edgar Cerrillo, 435th Security Forces Squadron Ground Combat Readiness Training Center instructor, gives hand signals to a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook for the 435th Contingency Response Group’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. 435th CRG Airmen connected a bundle to the Chinook to practice properly rigging cargo for a sling load operation. Saber Strike 17 promotes regional stability and security, while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter carries a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle for the U.S. Air Force 435th Contingency Response Group’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG Airmen worked alongside the U.S. Army and NATO military members throughout the exercise. Saber Strike 17 continues to increase participating nations’ capacity to conduct a full spectrum of military operations.  (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter carries a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle for the U.S. Air Force 435th Contingency Response Group’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG Airmen worked alongside the U.S. Army and NATO military members throughout the exercise. Saber Strike 17 continues to increase participating nations’ capacity to conduct a full spectrum of military operations. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter lifts a bundle into the air for the U.S. Air Force 435th Contingency Response Group’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG Airmen worked alongside the U.S. Army and NATO military members throughout the exercise. Saber Strike 17 continues to increase participating nations’ capacity to conduct a full spectrum of military operations.  (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter lifts a bundle into the air for the U.S. Air Force 435th Contingency Response Group’s sling load operation during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG Airmen worked alongside the U.S. Army and NATO military members throughout the exercise. Saber Strike 17 continues to increase participating nations’ capacity to conduct a full spectrum of military operations. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group load into a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG sends paratroopers to austere locations to determine if an area can be safely used as an airfield. Saber Strike 17 promotes regional stability and security, while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group load into a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG sends paratroopers to austere locations to determine if an area can be safely used as an airfield. Saber Strike 17 promotes regional stability and security, while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group sit inside a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG Airmen parachuted out of the Chinook to prepare them for such operations when deployed. Saber Strike 17 highlights the inherent flexibility of ground and air forces to rapidly respond to crises allowing for the right presence where it is needed, when it is needed. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group sit inside a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG Airmen parachuted out of the Chinook to prepare them for such operations when deployed. Saber Strike 17 highlights the inherent flexibility of ground and air forces to rapidly respond to crises allowing for the right presence where it is needed, when it is needed. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group float to the ground after jumping from a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook for the 435th Contingency Response Group’s sling load during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG sends paratroopers to austere locations to determine if an area can be safely used as an airfield. Saber Strike 17 highlights the inherent flexibility of ground and air forces to rapidly respond to crises allowing for the right presence where it is needed, when it is needed. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)
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U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group float to the ground after jumping from a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook for the 435th Contingency Response Group’s sling load during exercise Saber Strike 17 at Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, June 10, 2017. The 435th CRG sends paratroopers to austere locations to determine if an area can be safely used as an airfield. Saber Strike 17 highlights the inherent flexibility of ground and air forces to rapidly respond to crises allowing for the right presence where it is needed, when it is needed. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules pushes out a pallet of equipment during exercise Saber Strike 17 on Lielvārde Air Base, Latvia, June 7, 2017. The 435th Contingency Response Group from the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, dropped the bundle full of equipment to practice assessing an area for aircraft landings. U.S. military members are working alongside their NATO partners throughout the exercise in the Baltic region and Poland. Saber Strike 17 continues to increase participating nations’ capacity to conduct a full spectrum of military operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)
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A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules pushes out a pallet of equipment during exercise Saber Strike 17 on Lielvārde Air Base, Latvia, June 7, 2017. The 435th Contingency Response Group from the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, dropped the bundle full of equipment to practice assessing an area for aircraft landings. U.S. military members are working alongside their NATO partners throughout the exercise in the Baltic region and Poland. Saber Strike 17 continues to increase participating nations’ capacity to conduct a full spectrum of military operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

A pallet of equipment lands on the ground after being dropped out of a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules during exercise Saber Strike 17 on Lielvārde Air Base, Latvia, June 7, 2017. The 435th Contingency Response Group from the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, dropped the bundle to practice assessing an area for aircraft landings. Saber Strike 17 continues to increase participating nations’ capacity to conduct a full spectrum of military operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)
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A pallet of equipment lands on the ground after being dropped out of a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules during exercise Saber Strike 17 on Lielvārde Air Base, Latvia, June 7, 2017. The 435th Contingency Response Group from the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, dropped the bundle to practice assessing an area for aircraft landings. Saber Strike 17 continues to increase participating nations’ capacity to conduct a full spectrum of military operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules travels down a runway after landing for exercise Saber Strike 17 on Lielvārde Air Base, June 7, 2017. Paratroopers from 435th Contingency Response Group from the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, were planning to jump from the aircraft, but wind conditions permitted them from doing so. Saber Strike 17 promotes regional stability and security, while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)
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A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules travels down a runway after landing for exercise Saber Strike 17 on Lielvārde Air Base, June 7, 2017. Paratroopers from 435th Contingency Response Group from the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, were planning to jump from the aircraft, but wind conditions permitted them from doing so. Saber Strike 17 promotes regional stability and security, while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

LIELVARDE AIR BASE, Latvia --

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules roars overhead as a pallet of equipment is pushed from the back, plummeting to the ground before it’s mad decent is softened by the whoosh of a deploying parachute. A strong wind whips dandelion seeds into the air and the C-130 is forced to land instead of dropping 435th Contingency Response Group paratroopers onto the grassy field as well. 

The 435th CRG from the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, has been operating out of Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, for exercise Saber Strike 17 from June 5 to 15.

“This training objective is basically to identify that we can do our primary mission, which is to open the base,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. George Broom, 435th Contingency Response Squadron airfield manager. “The 435th CRG has demonstrated it’s capable of an air insertion or a land insertion during this exercise.”

After U.S. Marines or Soldiers have secured an area in an austere environment, it is the 435th CRG Airmen who are the first to touch ground and ensure mission capabilites are ready. Whether it is a grassy field, or dirt strip, they  drop cargo, parachute out and  land nearby to finish unloading and then begin assessing the area as a potential airfield.  

Within four hours, the contingency Airmen make their assessment and reach back to their headquarters with information about the area, where it is determined as a "go" or "no-go" as a safe place for aircraft to land.

For the exercise, the 435th CRG Airmen have worked alongside the U.S. Army to complete their air drops.

“My function is to make sure the air drops are done in a safe manner on the drop zone, and that there are no injuries to any personnel or damage to containers being dropped, and to ensure wind conditions are good,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ellsworth Cupid, 5th Quartermaster Theater Aerial Delivery Company airdrop equipment supervisor and operations foreman. “We have certain regulations for when you can, and can't, drop; so my job is to make sure that happens.”

After completing their primary mission of assessing the area and opening a base, the Airmen and Soldiers continued to work together with the Latvian military on sling load operations, cargo deployment system drops, landing zone operations, convoy driving training, and night vision goggle training for loading and unloading aircraft.

“Exercises like this are very important for interoperability, partnership, and learning how each other function,” Cupid said. “When we deploy, it’s not just us in theater, you find all these different troops of different nationalities. Instead of waiting until then to learn each other’s systems and how we can work together, it’s better to do it now and figure it out. When we are in a crisis situation, we’ll already have that good partnership established. The Latvians are very receptive, professional, and they are very willing to help us.”

Building and strengthening partnerships throughout the Baltic region and with NATO allies has been a goal for the Saber Strike exercises in the past, and this iteration is no different.

“The Latvians are great,” Broom said. “The U.S. Army already has helicopter units here, so they’re well versed in working with U.S. forces. As far as we’re concerned, I’ve personally interacted with the airfield manager and they gave us all the information and escorts we needed. It’s always good to build those relationships with our NATO partners.”

“For me personally, it’s nice to be able to interact with a NATO nation I’ve never interacted with before,” he continued. “It’s great coming out here, making friendships, learning what their capabilities are, and seeing where you fit into the big puzzle.”

It is only through practice and experience that Airmen can become proficient at what they do. Exercises like Saber Strike 17 give the 435th CRG the ability to put its Airmen to the test.

“As with anything, practice like you play,” Broom said. “The more often we do this, the easier it is to work out the best practices and most efficient way of doing things. It’s always good to train like you’re going to be really doing it. We do it often and we do it well, whether it’s wet, dry, cold, or hot.”

Saber Strike 17 provides an environment for U.S. military forces to work together as well as with their NATO counterparts. The 435th CRG Airmen showed they are capable of effectively and efficiently completing their mission working alongside anyone, anywhere.