The 19th Operations Group from Little Rock Air Force Base acted as the lead AF unit in Panther Storm, a deployment readiness exercise (DRE) supporting the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Jan. 31 – Feb. 2, at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.
Shortly after receiving the support request, six C-130J Super Hercules, nine C-17 Globemaster IIIs, and a Brazilian KC-390 conducted 18 heavy equipment drops and airdropped approximately 650 paratroopers at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana.
“One of the key capabilities that military airlift offers is the ability to deliver lethal combat forces and supplies anywhere, anytime,” said Capt. Taylor Swope, 41st Airlift Squadron airlift mission planning cell chief. “In order for the execution to be successful, Army and Air Force personnel must effectively integrate to ensure the desired effects of the operation are achieved. Exercising together fosters those healthy relationships, improving inoperability across the Joint Force.”
This exercise showcased the capability of mobility aircraft to project the 82nd Airborne Division as the Initial Reaction Force in response to a developing crisis anywhere in the world within a short notice.
“Panther Storm offers Airmen from the 19th Airlift Wing an opportunity to see how important their role is in the bigger picture of projecting combat power,” Swope said. “This isn’t just about aircrew or Army personnel — every service member has a role to play in ensuring mission success.”
In addition to aircrew and maintenance personnel, the 19th OG and 913th Airlift Group provided 17 members; two from leadership, 10 mission planners, two ramp coordinators, two intelligence personnel, and a weather representative as overhead for the exercise.
“In order to improve, we have to continue to anticipate adversary actions and capabilities,” Swope said. “If we fail to continue to practice against updated scenarios when we are called upon to execute it for real, we will find ourselves unprepared.”
Through strengthening interoperability, this DRE validated both branches’ capabilities while simultaneously building the skills and knowledge necessary for rapid deployment.
“The Panther Storm exercise provides our young crewmembers a real-time look at Herk Nation’s role in our partnership with the Army in combat airdrop insertion,” said Chief Master Sgt. Lew Holston Jr., 61st AS chief enlisted manager.
Col. Andrew Roddan, 19th OG commander, added that the personnel and heavy equipment drops are representative of how we deliver agile combat airlift in a professional, trusted manner in support of our national security objectives anywhere, any time as the Ready Warriors of the 19th AW.
“Our primary objective is to continuously advance tactical warfighting capabilities across the Mobility Air Force while expanding our relationship with sister services,” Roddan said. “Large-scale exercises such as Panther Storm aim to better prepare our Joint Force to possess decisive advantages for any potential conflict, while remaining proficient across the entire spectrum of readiness.”