Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 307th Bomb Wing and their active-duty counterparts from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base supported Exercise Cobra Warrior in the United Kingdom this month.
Cobra Warrior is the Royal Air Force’s capstone event for their weapons school instructor candidates.
The exercise featured more than 50 fighter aircraft from Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Israel. The large-scale exercise, based out of RAF Waddingham, England, had aircraft flying in simultaneously to participate in peer-to-peer scenarios.
For the first time, the 307th Bomb Wing provided a B-52 Stratofortress, which was the only bomber used for the exercise.
Lt. Col. Richard Rullifson, 307th Bomb Wing detachment commander, emphasized the importance of training with partner nation’s militaries while operating from a European forward location.
“This is some of the best training we can give our Airmen,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to work closely with our NATO allies and partners to overcome some of the common obstacles, like different languages and accents, that have the potential to create communication problems in real world scenarios.”
Maj. Greg Watson, 93rd Bomb Squadron weapons systems officer, served as the U.S. liaison for Cobra Warrior. He agreed with Ruliffson’s assessment.
“To be able to participate in a large-force exercise against a current generation adversary type of threat with coalition partners and allies was extremely valuable,” he said.
Watson said the presence of the B-52 provided the other militaries a new aspect, giving them the opportunity to plan tactics for a platform with much larger weapons capacity than a conventional fighter.
“All of the exercise participants were absolutely thrilled with our participation,” said Watson. “Having the B-52 available brought a capability to this year’s Cobra Warrior that simply was not there in previous exercises.”
Rullifson said the exercise tested the unit’s ability to operate outside of their comfort zone and be innovative in seeking solutions to difficult problems.
“Since we are deployed, our troops don’t have all the parts and pieces they have at home station, so if something breaks it creates some unique situations on how to overcome that difficulty and get the aircraft off the ground,” he said.
Both air crews and ground service members leaned heavily on the Total Force Integration model to complete their roles in the exercise. The model seeks to create a seamless work environment between active-duty and Reserve Citizen Airmen and has been a fixture between the two units from Barksdale Air Force Base for several years.
Senior Airman Jose Villarreal, an active-duty flight equipment technician with the 2nd Operation Support Squadron, has served side-by-side with 307th Bomb Wing Reserve Citizen Airmen for nearly two years.
“Learning from people that have been doing this job for 20 years or more is a big benefit because they have perfected the systems at the home station,” said Villareal. “It helps you to be creative when troubleshooting problems out here.”
Article and photos via USAF by Master Sgt. Theodore Daigle.