Held at RAAF Base Richmond from 24 June to 2 July, the bilateral exercise focused on airborne operations to airfields across regional New South Wales. The USAF’s 353rd Special Operations Group brought to Australia three MC-130J Commando II aircraft and about 100 personnel from the Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa.
They flew complex training scenarios with No. 37 Squadron C-130J Hercules crews to deliver people and cargo under challenging circumstances and bring them home safely. Both units have conducted annual training and other engagement activities together since 2016, although Exercise Teak Action was cancelled last year because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Relationship between the air forces important
Commanding Officer No. 37 Squadron Wing Commander Anthony Kay said his unit appreciated the 353rd SOG making the trip to Australia for the exercise. “Their willingness to complete the quarantine as a condition of entry highlights the value they place on training with us, and in particular the importance of the relationship between Australian and US forces,” Wing Commander Kay said. “Both parties learnt an immense amount and achieved a lot in a surprisingly short time, ultimately planning and integrating together as smoothly as two Australian units normally would. Despite the challenges that Covid-19 provided, I’m confident both teams are looking forward to the next iteration, and we’re really grateful for the time they took to come and work with us.”
An MC-130J CSO is responsible for operating communication systems, sensors and other specialist equipment, and No. 37 Squadron is trialling an additional crewperson to assist with workload management during complex missions.
“The 353rd SOG regularly employ capabilities that we have started to develop,” Wing Commander Kay said. “It has been great for our team to see how our American partners conduct some of these missions and rewarding for our personnel to see how far and how fast we have progressed.”
Meanwhile, three retired Royal Australian Air Force Challenger 604 jets will now serve the country in a different way, having joined Queensland-based aeromedical charity, RACQ LifeFlight Rescue.