RAAF deploys contingent to Northern Mariana Islands

The Royal Australian Air Force deployed 383 Contingency Response Squadron (383CRS) to Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands for Exercise Cope North 24.  

CAPTION: RAAF and US Air Force personnel unload cargo from a USAF C-130J at Tinian North airfield during Exercise Cope North. Story by Flight Lieutenant Claire Campbell. Photos by Leading Aircraftman Kurt Lewis.

RAAF personnel integrated with US, Canadian and Japanese counterparts for this multilateral exercise to practise and enhance the integration of their capabilities.

Flying Officer Natasha Willett said enabling airbase operations for RAAF, US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, 383CRS provided a scalable, expeditionary force.

“Our squadron at Tinian comprised of multilateral elements including command and control, security forces, health, air movements, logistics, airfield engineering and communications,” Flying Officer Willett said.

“It has been an amazing experience working alongside our allied counterparts conducting agile operations.”

Cope North 24 involved 383CRS and counterparts from the US Air Force’s (USAF) 36th Contingency Response Squadron and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (Koku-Jieitai) establishing fully operational airfields at Tinian in short periods to enable flexibility and deeper integration.

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Smith, Commander of the 36th Contingency Response Squadron, said the aim was to learn together, develop procedures together and foster interoperability.

“A contingency response squadron is made up of multiple elements, centred around establishing an airbase that allows us to land aircraft, offload aircraft and fix aircraft,” he said.

“We deploy as a self-sustained unit, so we do not require resupply for a certain amount of time.”

Australia deployed about 200 personnel on Exercise Cope North 24 from February 5 to 23, providing an opportunity for aviators to enhance and refine their skill sets in a new, high-tempo environment.

CAPTIONRAAF Aircraftman Ronan Duff, centre, aids US Air Force personnel in the construction of a TM60 rapid deployable tactical military tent shelter.

The exercise focused on tri-lateral combined command structures, with the Koku-Jieitai, USAF and RAAF holding key positions at each spoke and developing common procedures.

Embedded with 383CRS was USAF Technical Sergeant Matthew Lothrop, a landing zone safety officer, overseeing the runway at Tinian North ensuring safety, coordinating arrivals and departures, and advising aircraft of airspace traffic.

“We are provided with information from aircraft and coordinate with the bilateral movements team regarding what has to be offloaded, while maintaining positive control of the airfield,” Sergeant Lothrop said.

“The RAAF and USAF teams conducted cross training, learning how each other operates and what safety policies we have.”

Within this challenging environment, the Contingency Response Squadron conducted a variety of exercise scenarios, including a mass casualty and aeromedical evacuation event, a flush drill, close combat protection drills and airbase recovery.

The exercise provided the multilateral coalition force with an opportunity to integrate and resolve problems together, refining tactics and techniques.

CAPTIONRAAF and US Air Force personnel work together in a command post.


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