PHOTOS: Joint Base MDL Holds ‘Elephant Walk’ Training Exercise

elephant 1 tlsPHOTOS: Eighteen enormous grey aircraft marched down the runway nose-to-tail in a single-file line reminiscent of the formation’s namesake, the elephant.

The formation, affectionately known as an “Elephant Walk” was part of a training exercise held here Nov. 21, 2013, involving 12 KC-10 Extenders and six C-17 Globemaster IIIs from the 305th Air Mobility Wing. The exercise enabled aircrew, maintainers, command post and operational support personnel to test their ability to launch a mass amount of aircraft in support of real-world operations.

Air refuelers like the KC-10 and C-17 are the lifeline of global reach, increasing range, payload and flexibility.  Air Force tankers can also refuel Navy, Marine and NATO aircraft and have an inherent cargo-carrying
capability. The unique capabilities of the C-17 and KC-10 make them critical to military operations in Afghanistan and humanitarian missions like those ongoing in the Philippines.

“We usually launch a few aircraft a day here, but in order to launch almost our entire mobility fleet at the same time takes a lot of work and a lot of coordination,” said Capt. Nicole Stenstad, 6th Airlift Squadron C-17
instructor pilot. “We use exercises like this one today to streamline [our base’s] ability to support real world contingencies and showcase our strategic airpower.”

As Stenstad said, wrangling eighteen vast aircraft into an exercise of this magnitude required an equally mammoth effort, from the four aircrew members on each KC-10, to the hundreds of aircraft maintainers that put hours into ensuring each jet was prepared to fly, the entire 305th worked hard to ensure the exercise went smoothly.

“[This exercise] demonstrated the incredible diversity and acuity that our Airmen work on every day,” said Maj. Andrew Bowers, 305th Air Mobility Wing commander’s action group chief. “That’s really at the heart of what we saw – how good these guys are at their job. Today was an absolute success. We have Airmen, Sailors and civilians all working at the 305th that contributed to today’s success and everyone is thrilled with [it].”

In addition to the seriousness of the mission, there were hundreds of onlookers along the flightline to view what some called a “spectacular” display.

“It was the thrill of a lifetime,” said MaryAnn Rivell, 305th Maintenance Group maintenance operations honorary commander. “The opportunity to view the Elephant Walk was so exciting and yet humbling at the same time; to see so many aircraft lined up one after the other–what a powerful image.”

elephant 2 tlsEven for military members, an Elephant Walk is an impressive sight.

“I’ve been in the military almost 28 years and that was the first time I had ever seen 18 heavy aircraft lined up on a runway like that,” said Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Burrell, 87th Air Base Wing staff agency superintendent.

“It was amazing. It was truly amazing.”

(Photos: The 305th Air Mobility Wing conducted an “Elephant Walk,” involving 18 aircraft at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Nov. 21, 2013. An “Elephant Walk” is a unique Air Force term introduced during World War II when observers commented on the nose-to-tail, single-file taxi movements when large fleets
of bombers would regularly conduct attacks by sorties involving more than 1,000 aircraft. Today, an “Elephant Walk” is a fundamental training tool to demonstrate and ensure full mission capability). [TLS]

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