By Master Sgt. Ted Daigle, 307th Bomb Wing
/ Published September 23, 2019
Pilots with the 343rd Bomb Squadron guide a B-52 Stratofortress over the skies of Europe in support of Exercise Cobra Warrior, Sept. 13, 2019. This year’s effort was a large-scale exercise that served as the capstone event for the Royal Air Force weapons instructor course. Fighters from the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Israel all participated, with the U.S. providing the sole bomber presence. The aircraft operated out of Royal Air Force Fairford, United Kingdom. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
Staff Sgt. Stephen Boyd, 307th Security Forces Squadron specialist, guards a B-52 Stratofortress at Royal Air Force Fairford, United Kingdom, Sept. 12, 2019. Boyd and a host of other Reserve Airmen from the unit, integrated with active-duty troops to support Exercise Ample Strike 19 and Exercise Cobra Warrior. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)
Lt. Col. Richard Ruliffson, 11th Bomb Squadron commander, and Col. Sandra Vandiviere, 307th Mission Support Group commander, watch a B-52 Stratofortress taxi after landing at Royal Air Force Fairford, United Kingdom, Sept. 13, 2019. The aircraft was returning from a mission in support of Exercise Cobra Warrior. It is the fourth year the 307th Bomb Wing has supported Ample Strike, a Czech-Republic led exercise designed to improve interoperability between Joint Terminal Air Controllers from multiple nations and U.S. military air crews. It is the first year the unit has supported Cobra Warrior, the Royal Air Force capstone event for its weapons instructor course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)
Reserve Airmen from the 307th Bomb Wing and their active-duty counterparts from the 2nd BW supported Exercise Cobra Warrior, Sept. 5-17.
Cobra Warrior is the Royal Air Force 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, United Kingdom, had aircraft flying in simultaneously to participate in peer-to-peer scenarios.
For the first time, the 307th BW provided a B-52 Stratofortress, which was the only bomber aircraft used for the exercise.
Lt. Col. Richard Rullifson, 307th BW 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 (their) 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 Airmen and has been a fixture between the two units from Barksdale AFB 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 BW Reserve 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.”