U.S. service members and allies work together overcoming challenges during Northern Edge 23-2

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Xavier Wilson
  • 366 Fighter Wing

U.S. service members worked alongside the Japan Self-Defense Forces and other Allies and partners to enhance Agile Combat Employment (ACE) capabilities from varying locations in the Indo-Pacific region including Tsuiki Air Base and Iwo To, Japan during Northern Edge 23-2 (NE 23-2), July 2 to 21, 2023.

This iteration of Northern Edge was a first-of-its-kind test of command and control capabilities and provided the opportunity for personnel to sharpen their skills.
Operating from multiple locations simultaneously presents unique challenges requiring extensive logistical planning and coordination. Supply chains need to be established to provide the necessary equipment, ammunition, and rations. Moving personnel and equipment across borders and choosing the right team to maintain a small, agile footprint can be challenging and may lead to delays or disruptions without proper planning.

“One day, one of the jets had to return early due to an engine malfunction,” said Lt. Col. Jon White, 366th Air Base Squadron Commander. “We had to replace the engine. The Mobility Air Forces were able to generate a C-130 to get us an engine and all of the equipment required to change the engine on a Strike Eagle. Our maintainers downloaded the motor within 30 minutes of having it off the airplane. They worked until the end of their duty day and came in early the next day. The plane was ready to go within 12 hours.” Eric Fletcher

Communication can also be a significant obstacle when working with Allies. Language barriers can lead to misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and even errors in critical situations. Additionally, cultural differences might affect the way operations are conducted.

Senior Airman Eric Fletcher, a Transmissions Systems Technician from the 35th Communications Squadron, along with other liaisons played an essential role in helping accomplish the mission. Thanks to Airmen who are ready to serve the mission, this challenge was overcome.
"My first language is Japanese,” said Fletcher. “I was born and raised in Japan. I spent the first four years in Yokota and the rest of it in Okinawa before I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Here at Iwo To, I’ve helped with translating as well as the logistics side, ranging from simple questions to cargo needing to be moved from one place to another. I helped with coordination between U.S. and Japan forces and remained available to support Lt. Col. White to coordinate and get things done smoothly and quickly.”

Protecting troops from unfamiliar diseases, ensuring proper sanitation practices and medical care in unfamiliar environments, and leaving an insignificant footprint is also critical to mission success. With the lead wing’s medics on the ready, health concerns were addressed as soon as they arose.

“We were chosen to go to Iwo To at a moment's notice– our team members and equipment set-up is designed to be agile,” Senior Airman Lauren Elliot, a paramedic with the 366th Healthcare Operations Squadron said. “The air base squadron medical team is able to pre-plan the design of our trauma, clinical kits and medical rucks so we can respond quickly either in or out of our makeshift clinic in the hangar.”

Whether it's logistics, communication or medical challenges, effective coordination, training, and open communication between U.S. service members and the Japan Self-Defense Forces allowed the Gunfighters to overcome any obstacles during Northern Edge, and helped improve interoperability; refine tactics, techniques and procedures; and strengthen combined command and control relationships.