DAKAR, Senegal — From Feb. 17-28, members and a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 86th Airlift Wing participated in exercise Flintlock 2020, an annual, African-led, integrated military and law enforcement exercise that strengthens key partner-nation forces throughout North and West Africa as well as Western Special Operations Forces.
The exercise was held in Senegal and Mauritania and included more than 30 African, European and North American partners.
“We’re doing joint training and increasing the capabilities of African partners in West Africa,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Joseph Baldwin, 37th Airlift Squadron detachment commander. “Our job here is not necessarily to be part of the exercise, but to support the exercise, provide logistics and movement of passengers and cargo throughout the area of responsibility.”
The 37th AS provided airdrop capabilities as well as transportation for civilian journalists, exercise leadership and 50 Chadian soldiers.
Airmen must be prepared to handle a variety of situations while still completing the mission. Exercises give them that experience and training to operate in a variety of locations and situations.
“Anytime you’re operating in a new environment or challenging situation, you come up with new creative ways to get the mission done,” said Baldwin. “We came out here with pretty much no base of operations and then figured out how we were going to support C-130 operations for two and a half weeks out of an abandoned administrative building in West Africa. Being able to do operations like that, and be flexible and work with the people that are already on the airfield and figure out how we can make things happen is always beneficial to increase our capabilities.”
While supporting exercise Flintlock 2020, members of the 37th AS also used their time by practicing low-level flying and performing airdrops, tasks they typically can’t perform at their home station.
“We have very few restrictions when flying over the desert of Mauritania and it’s less densely populated so it’s one of the few places where we can actually fly an hour-long, low-level route at 300 feet above ground level,” said Baldwin.
Exercises like Flintlock are not only necessary for improving U.S. forces but partner forces like those in Africa.
“West Africa is an important area of responsibility for not only the U.S. military, but other NATO countries as well,” said Baldwin. “With an increase in the strategic threat of extremism, it’s very important that we have events like this and support operations to assist not only those NATO countries, but especially those partner African nations so that we can increase their capabilities for them to lead on this fight.”