Air Force to take over part of Washington airport for Mobility Guardian exercise

A loadmaster from the 15th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, S.C. loads cargo onto a C-17 July 23, 2017, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Eight Little Rock C-130Js will travel alongside the C-17 aircrew to participate in Mobility Guardian 2017, a massive joint exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.


By CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE | Columbia Basin Herald, Moses Lake, Wash. | Published: July 26, 2017

MOSES LAKE, Wash. (Tribune News Service) — Moses Lake is going to be invaded next week.

The U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command is going to commandeer a portion of the Grant County International Airport for more than a week as part of the Mobility Guardian exercise, which tests the military’s ability to deploy quickly to any place in the world.

Part of that exercise will involve an airdrop of about 600 soldiers and their equipment as soldiers practice “securing the airfield” on Thursday, Aug. 3.

“The Grant County International Airport will be working with both U.S. and allied nations to conduct a full-scale field exercise the first week and a half of August,” said Rich Mueller, director of facilities and operations at the Port of Moses Lake.

“This will include paratroopers in the air, troops on the ground, rolling stock, and jets, turboprops and helicopters flying other than usual patterns,” Mueller added in a letter to tenants of Port of Moses Lake.

It will make a noisy Thursday night as troops fire weapons and use simulated explosives in their taking of the airport, Mueller said.

The port is asking tenants and nearby residents to turn their lights out as paratroopers assaulting the airport will be wearing night vision goggles and could easily be blinded.

“Even a porch light can be blinding and cause harm if a jumper cannot see the approaching ground because of temporary blindness,” he said.

Despite the exercise, the port will remain open for regular business. However, on the Thursday of the air assault on the airport, power will be cut to a portion of the Port.

Also tentatively scheduled for later in the exercise is a simulated refugee crisis in the airport terminal building involving British troops on Aug. 9 and 10.

Mobility Guardian replaces the Air Mobility Command’s AMC Rodeo, which brings air forces from a number of nations together to practice supply operations and deployment. While most of the exercise will take place at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Air Force uses the Port of Moses Lake to do the kinds of training operations it doesn’t have space for in the Seattle-Tacoma area.

“The objective is to execute rapid global mobility missions we see today, as well as those we anticipate in the future, to enhance mobility partnerships,” said Maj. Gen. Jerry Martinez, director of operations for the Air Mobility Command, in an Air Force press release.

“Exercising with allies we depend on every day will enhance the ability of our Mobility Air Forces Airmen to overcome challenges and achieve national objectives,” Martinez added.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

©2017 the Columbia Basin Herald, Wash.
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