Devil Raiders enable Exercise African Lion with critical airfield surveys

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Luther Mitchell Jr.
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing

Air Mobility Command deployed two airfield survey teams from the 621st Contingency Response Wing to the Kingdom of Morocco April 17-27 to conduct airfield surveys in preparation for Exercise African Lion 21.

The team of Devil Raiders conducted surveys of five airfields at different locations across Morocco that will receive coalition forces aircraft and enable access to mobility platforms. Locations included an alternate landing site for a space shuttle and an international airport.

Exercise African Lion is U.S. Africa Command's most prominent annual exercise. It is scheduled for June 7-18 and will involve more than 7,000 international participants led by the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa, in partnership with the Kingdom of Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal.

The survey teams evaluate the existing infrastructure of an airfield and provide details necessary for determining if a site is suitable for a particular mission. Data considered includes base infrastructure, airfield geometrics, pavement strength and airfield obstacles.

"We evaluate everything necessary for a mission bed down, which helps mission planners know what conditions are like at the airfield and what it is they need to plan on bringing," said Capt. Jacob Pond, 621st Contingency Response Support Squadron support flight commander.

African Lion is designed to foster access and interoperability among partner nations and promote regional stability; both objectives directly support the National Defense Strategy.

"African Lion 21 will play a big role in strategic deterrence and strengthening allies," said Capt. Jack Robinson, 821st CRSS support flight commander. "By surveying multiple airfields in support of the exercise, we are directly enabling the exercise operations at these airfields and thus the overall strategic and partnership building objectives."

A typical airfield survey takes 3-5 working days to complete depending on the size, amount of data available and experience of the team.

"What is not included in those figures, though, is the time spent crunching numbers and writing reports afterward," Pond said. "That process can take a week or two, again depending on the complexity."

Airfield assessments generate two products: the Air Force Form 1174, Airfield Survey, and the Contingency Airfield Pavement Evaluation. The AF Form 1174 provides an overview of the airfield's capabilities, features and available support functions. The CAPE outlines the structural capacity of the airfield pavements.

As part of this tasking, air advisors with the 818th and 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron, who specialize in assisting partner nations with developing air mobility capabilities, went with the survey teams to provide host nation support.

"While we are on a mission, we focus on building partnerships,” said Tech. Sgt. William Russell, 818th MSAS air advisor. “That can mean many things, but really what it comes down to is maintaining a positive relationship with our partner nations and understanding that we are a guest in their house."

The air advisors used their French-speaking capabilities to overcome communication barriers and build relationships that they can utilize in the future.

"Morocco is the U.S.'s longest partner," Pond said. "This mission, along with any other partner building missions, helps our two countries to better understand each other and appreciate each other at the tactical and strategic levels. I have a much deeper appreciation for Morocco's role in the region than I did before, and I believe our time there increased their appreciation for our efforts."

African Lion 21 will be the 17th iteration of the exercise and the first that the 621st CRW has completed airfield surveys for.

"The friendliness of our Moroccan allies was definitely the key to the success of this mission," Pond said. "These were their airfields, so we couldn't have done anything if they didn't want us to. Our long-lasting and strong partnership was very evident throughout our whole time there."

Militaries from Tunisia, Senegal, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Netherlands and other countries will join the U.S. and host nation troops in the exercise.

Exercise African Lion 21 will include several smaller exercises–including an air exercise featuring Air Force Global Strike Command aircraft, F-16 Fighting Falcon, C-130J Super Hercules, and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, a joint forcible entry exercise with paratroopers, a chemical-biological response exercise and a humanitarian civic assistance program event.

The effort required months of collaboration between all participating countries to ensure proper COVID-19 mitigation protocols were in place for a successful execution.