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Altus AFB Airmen exercise severe weather, rapid airpower response

97 AMW conducts severe weather exercise.

U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers, KC-46 Pegasus and C-17 Gloemaster IIIs line up for an elephant walk at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, during a large formation exercise, April 2, 2021. The exercise was conducted to simulate a mass evacuation of aircraft in preparation of an emergency weather situation. (U.S Air Force photo by Senior Airman Breanna Klemm)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.-- Approximately 29 aircraft could be seen over the skies of Southwest Oklahoma, April 2, 2021, as Airmen of the 97th Air Mobility Wing exercised their ability to evacuate a large number of aircraft in a short amount of time. 

The planes were launched as part of a severe weather exercise, testing the base’s ability to relocate aircraft before impending storms - something many consider necessary due to Altus’ geographic location. 

Maj. Curtis Sinewe, 97th Operations Support Squadron chief of wing weapons and tactics, said the wing’s ability to launch so many aircraft at once, be it for weather evacuations or combat capabilities, represents a unique advantage for the hometown of global reach and mobility.

“The local generation of combat airpower from a single base represents a significant strategic capability,” said Sinewe. “When you have the ability to launch 29 aircraft at our time and choosing, and execute it as aviation professionals, it definitely is a strategic ability that not a lot of nations possess.”

According to Maj. Patrick Skaife, 97th OSS assistant director of operations, getting all three airframes off the ground requires a skilled team of Airmen from across the base.  

“I think we sometimes lose sight of the teamwork required to get a jet off the ground and accomplish our mission,” said Maj. Patrick Skaife, 97th OSS assistant director of operations. “This is a great chance to have the entire base come together for a unified event. I know I certainly didn’t realize how much goes on behind the scenes. I think the large formation exercise showcases that effort in one event and helps everyone see how their work contributes to the mission.”

Many units across the base directly impacted the mobility airpower evacuation, including the 97th Maintenance Group, 97th Communications Squadron, and 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron, among others. 

Senior Airman Nicholas Clegg, 97th LRS air operations specialist, said participating in large-scale exercises are valuable opportunities to build wing-wide readiness.

“Normally we're just doing trainer loads,” said Clegg. “Having this larger mission is good for us to practice loading a large amount of pallets at once. That helps mission readiness...that's what it comes down to.”

Senior Airman Dawson Williams, 97th OSS airfield management shift leader, said events like these make him excited to be from Mobility’s Hometown and its vision to become the Air Force’s community of choice. 

"When I get to be a part of events like this, it makes me proud to be at Altus," said Williams. "Some might not appreciate or understand the importance of our mission, but the things we all do here at Altus reach all over the world. Getting to be a part of that every day is really special."

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