Pacific Air Commandos train with Philippine Air Force during Teak Piston

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Aaron Cram
  • 353rd Special Operations Group
Two MC-130P Combat Shadows and approximately 90 Airmen from the 353rd Special Operations Group joined forces with several Philippines Air Force units here and at Mactan Air Base June 15 - 26 to train together for Teak Piston 09-2.

The training exchange was designed to enhance U.S and Philippine military training, capabilities and increase interoperability. Teak Piston 09-2 also offered the 353rd SOG a chance to return to the base where it was activated 20 years ago.

"The relationship between our air forces goes back a long way," said Lt. Col. Eric Zimmerman, the Teak Piston 09-2 mission commander. "Our unit started here 20 years ago and we've worked closely since then. This visit was no exception. We worked side-by-side during this training exchange taking full advantage of the knowledge our service members could share with each other. There's no doubt in my mind both of our forces are stronger after working together on this trip."

During the training exchange, maintainers, security forces members and medics conducted subject-matter-expert exchanges with their respective counterparts. Special operations forces from the PAF also performed static-line personnel drops from the MC-130s.

Four security forces members from the group conducted a six-day exchange consisting of close quarters battle drills, convoy operations, electronic security systems, Krav Maga and military operations in an urban environment with about 50 PAF members from over 12 different career fields. Despite differences in tactics and equipment, the security forces team leader said the training went very well and all of the participants came away with something extra.

"Anytime you work with armed forces from different nations you know you'll need to get past initial differences," Master Sgt. Traci Bauder said. "We train and equip our forces differently. But when you start working together and discussing your tactics and techniques with each other, you see ways to enhance your capabilities.

"Also, nothing can top the personal connections you make with the teams involved," she said. "Working side-by-side with your allies is the best way to enhance your capability to come together if the need ever arises."

The maintenance exchange took place at Mactan Air Base with five SOG maintainers working with multiple PAF units all involved with C-130 maintenance. The maintainers observed the PAF performing jobs such as a propeller build-up, oil tank shut-off valve replacement and compressor washes on all four engines. Afterward the maintainers discussed the similarities and differences in the way each service performs these tasks. The SOG Airmen also observed the PAF maintainers performing tasks in the hangar they do not get a chance to do. In the end, the maintainers learned the two services are not that different.

"The biggest thing I'll take away is how similar the PAF is to ours," said Master Sgt. Derek Love, the maintenance team leader at Mactan. "They are dealing with a lot of the same issues we do on a daily basis such as a shrinking pool of experienced mechanics due to retirement or people leaving the service for civilian life. They also deal with parts shortages, trying to keep pace with a busy flying schedule, and performing additional duties, which put more burdens on the mechanics trying to fix aircraft. But despite all that, their morale seemed to be very high and they were very interested to learn whatever they could from us."

The United States has participated in training exchanges within the Pacific Command area of responsibility since 1984, and it is not likely this will be the last exchange with the Philippine Air Force. That's something that pleases the Teak Piston 09-2 mission commander.

"I know both air forces gained a lot from this exchange," said Lt. Col. Zimmerman. "With that said, I know we still have a lot more to learn from each other."