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Exercise Atlas Mountain brings together three coalition partners, puts flight line safety to the test

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Bradly A. Schneider
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar— After months of planning, the U.S. Air Force joined with its coalition partners from the United Kingdom and Qatar to take part in an exercise on the runway at Al Udeid Air Base. The exercise, originally proposed by the UK in order to satisfy internal safety requirements, was designed to test the effectiveness of an emergency response to an aircraft accident on the runway.  By the time the exercise took place on Oct. 3, it involved around 120 to 150 service members from three coalition forces. 


“The relationships that we build on through this exercise are really important just for our day to day work,” said UK Squadron Leader Cal Lowie, commanding officer assigned to the 901 Expeditionary Air Wing. “The conversations that we had with the operations group, with the air traffic control, and with the security forces have allowed us to improve our procedures and our knowledge.”


Within five minutes of beginning the exercise, firefighters from the U.S. Air Force and the Qatar Emiri Air Force were putting water on simulated flames at the crash scene. The crash and recovery team was on scene moments after the firefighters to begin assessing the situation. The four simulated casualties aboard the Royal Air Force C-130J Hercules, played by British Airmen, were removed from the aircraft and triaged by U.S. and Qatari firefighters within the first 15 minutes.


“Being out there on the scene, it was seamless the way our fire department and the Qatari fire department worked together,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Cory Terceira, wing self-assessment program manager assigned to the 379th Inspector General’s Office. “It was a good opportunity to show off our joint capabilities and to give them the training to respond.”


The planning and execution of the exercise provided an opportunity for coalition members to evaluate the effectiveness of communications, coordination and general cooperation in a relatively tense, simulated real life situation.


“I think one of the difficulties in post-crash management is being able to coordinate with all of the forces,” said Lowie.


Although this was the first joint exercise of its size between the U.S. and the UK, it wasn’t the first exercise where the coalition forces have worked together here at Al Udeid.


“We did a little prep work in a sense, because we knew this exercise was coming. We invited them [the UK forces] to participate in the active shooter exercise,” said Maj. Leo Burkardt, exercise planner assigned to the 379th Inspector General’s Office, referring to an active shooter exercise held on the base in late August.


“We already work really closely together and it’s really encouraging how easy it is for the UK forces to integrate with the U.S. forces,” said Lowie. “There has been some fantastic learning to come out of this exercise.”


“I can only foresee the relationship and exercise partnership continuing to grow,” said Burkardt.