Air Commandos conduct HALO airdrops at Teak Piston 2016

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jessica Tait, 353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs
  • 353rd Special Operations Group
Air Commandos from the 353rd Special Operations Group completed high-altitude, low-opening (HALO) airdrops into Crow Valley in Tarlac Province, Philippines with members from the 1st Special Forces Group Airborne (1SFG(A)) and Philippine Army Light Reaction Regiment (LRR) on Sept. 24.

As a part of Teak Piston 2016, the 1st Special Operations Squadron supported bilateral subject-matter expert exchanges with the Philippine Air Force at Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, Philippines.

“In addition to practical aircrew training with Philippine Air Force special operations forces (SOF), this year’s joint, combined exchange training (JCET) provided an opportunity to support the U.S. Army with HALO airdrops from our MC-130H Talons,” said Maj. Mark Schmidt, Teak Piston 2016 mission commander.

The 1SFG(A) is responsible for providing Special Forces operators to the Pacific Command (PACOM) area of responsibility. With over 15 years working with Armed Forces Philippines (AFP), the Green Berets have been vital in developing the AFP’s SOF capability through training and operations.

“We spent six months coordinating with the Joint United States Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG), PACOM Augmentation Team, Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC), and the AFP General Headquarters on a joint, combined HALO airdrop,” said U.S. Army CPT Bradley Gill, Operations Detachment Alpha 1324 commander. “Being able to jump from a U.S. Air Force aircraft with our Philippine counterparts is critical for interoperability training and strengthening our partnership with the host nation.”

Though the HALO airdrop was not an official part of Teak Piston 2016, the presence of a MC-130H in the Philippines allowed for a unique training engagement.

“Getting a U.S. aircraft dedicated for military free-fall operations is very rare for the AFP and speaks to our enduring partnership and commitment to their success,” said Gill. “The AFP have limited resources in way of aircraft and when they can, they typically only jump from Philippine Air Force rotary wing UH-1Ds.”

The MC-130H Combat Talon II provides infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of special operations forces and equipment in hostile or denied territory.

“Jumping from a high performance aircraft was a unique experience for the LRR,” said Gill. “HALO jumps provide exposure to more advance tactics, training and procedures (TTPs) from our jumpmasters.”
The 1SFG(A) stood up the LRR in 2000 and built a significant capacity through persistent engagements through the years.

The 353rd SOG took full advantage of building relationships with our joint and combined partners during Teak Piston 2016.