U.S. Air Force Deploys C-130 Airlifters to Portugal for Exercise Real Thaw 18

Two C-130H3 Hercules airlifters and approximately 50 Airmen assigned to the U.S. Air Force 94th Airlift Wing based at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia, arrived at Monte Real Air Base, Portugal to, participate in Exercise Real Thaw 18, a Portuguese-led exercise.

The annual two-week exercise includes armed forces from multiple nations to participate in training missions aimed at merging and deploying different platforms toward a major objective, covering a vast range of activities including air-to-air and air-to-ground training, tactical air transport operations, and close air support.

“It provides a unique training opportunity,” said Maj. Richard Konopczynski, deputy mission commander from the 700th Airlift Squadron at Dobbins. “We get to work with our coalition partners. We have other C-130 units here from different countries, and we get to not only compare our techniques, but also work in a deployed environment.”

This year’s exercise included 1,500 participants and 35 aircraft from Spain, Denmark, Netherlands, France, Portugal, and the United States.

The exercise also goes beyond the scope of flying missions to include support roles such as communications, security forces, maintenance, and intelligence. The scenarios will integrate daily realistic interoperability tasks in the air and on the ground between multinational units.

“We set up a scenario that resembles a very specific situation in the world,” said Lt. Col. Joao Rosa, exercise coordinator and Portuguese air force fighter pilot. “We are simulating that we deployed a NATO force to a country…what we are going to do with all the types of aircraft we have, with all the army forces and navy forces, is to protect that small country.”

The goal is for participants to know each other on a more personal level to establish rapport and create lasting bonds, said Rosa. The exercise brings everyone together as much as possible, whether it be flying, briefing or working together.

These relationships have real world consequences with much of the warfighting effort involving a number of allied forces from different countries working together now and in future contingency operations.

“It’s an opportunity to exercise a lot of our skills, tactics and procedures in a coalition environment,” said Maj. Konopczynski.

Dobbins is participating for the first time in the exercise, which will last from Jan. 29 to Feb. 9, 2018.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Park, 94th Airlift Wing

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