Tinker AWACS return from Pacific after successful RIMPAC 2016 exercise

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Caleb Wanzer
  • 513th Air Control Group Public Affairs

Airmen from the 513th Air Control Group and 552nd Air Control Wing recently returned to Tinker Air Force Base after flying more than 110 flight hours and controlling 83 aircraft as part the world’s largest naval exercise.


This year marks the fourth Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, exercise for the 513th and the first time that the active-duty associate unit deployed alongside, bringing a detachment of operations and maintenance Airmen. Planning for the exercise, which involved 22 countries and more than 200 aircraft, began even before the last RIMPAC came to a close.


“RIMPAC 2016 started more than two years ago for the 513th,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Williams, the 513th RIMPAC detachment commander. “Bridges were built, conferences were attended, and plans were forged. Many people, including myself, put countless hours into ensuring this would be an exercise many would talk about for years.”


Not only did the exercise give aircrews the chance to work closely with U.S. and Canadian fighter aircraft, the active duty and reserve Airmen also worked closely with Canadian and Australian agencies to ensure effective and safe scenarios.


For Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Gibb, the 513th’s aviation resource management superintendent, the exercise environment provided a better training opportunity than working back at Tinker.


“Bringing one of my newer Airmen and allowing him to work in a deployed type of atmosphere was very beneficial,” Sergeant Gibb said. “I believe that we grew in our confidence in getting the job done right, despite having a hectic environment and numerous changes to the schedule. RIMPAC was a great opportunity to show what we can accomplish in less than ideal conditions.”


One of the intangible benefits for the Airmen deployed to support RIMPAC was the partnerships formed, Sergeant Gibb added.


“I would say, as with any TDY that the 513th does, the best part is the relationships that are built,” he said. “Working, and playing, with people outside of their normal offices and environments is great. We work hard, accomplish the mission, and then we make time to hang out off-duty.”


The hard work paid off during the AWACS’ 15 days of flight operations; the only cancelled mission was due to a tropical storm that dumped nearly a foot of rain on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam according to local news reports.


“From start to finish, the battle rhythm was fierce, losing only one sortie to Tropical Storm Darby,” Colonel Williams said. “The total maintenance and operations effort was something every exercise should strive to mirror. People like Staff Sgt. Austin Paisley with the 552nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Staff Sgt. Kyle Walker from the 513th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Maj. Larry Jackson and Maj. Anne Ridlon from the 970th Airborne Air Control Squadron really cemented the operation and were instrumental in what I would call an epic RIMPAC 2016 exercise.”


Bringing active-duty Airmen from the 552nd to the Pacific island benefitted the exercise commanders as well as providing a deployed total force integration environment, according to Colonel Williams.


“Having the 552nd join us for an exercise of this magnitude allowed both sides to view how the other does business,” he said. “By having two aircraft on the ramp, we were able to provide the combined air forces commander with continuous operations, from our arrival to the end of the exercise.”