***image1***Exercise Flexible Leader 07 came to a close May 16 after more than a year of preparation that included academics, workshops and individual training.
The robust scenario trained 3rd Air Force and Naval Forces Europe staffs to rapidly respond during a complex and challenging crisis situation within the U.S. European Command area of responsibility.
The scenario involved a 6.3 earthquake in Izmir, Turkey, that killed thousands, caused numerous landslides, and destroyed several overpasses and buildings, cutting Izmir into multiple disaster zones.
Third Air Force was charged with quickly assembling and deploying a Joint Task Force to support on-going Department of State humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.
“Interagency coordination was key during the exercise,” said Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop, 3rd AF commander. “In the scenario, there were hundreds of relief organizations ready to help. We quickly and efficiently directed our support in response to the victims’ needs; getting aid to people at the right place and at the right time.”
In addition to interagency players, representatives from all services participated in the exercise as well as representatives from Turkey.
“Turkey is a strong U.S. ally, and we are very grateful to them for allowing us to use their country as a backdrop during this humanitarian relief exercise,” said General Bishop. “We share a commitment of promoting peace, stability and opportunity in that region, so every opportunity we have to work together further promotes this common goal.”
The exercise also provided an opportunity for the different services to work together in a joint environment and enhance their interoperability.
“The strong relationships we developed during this exercise have strengthened our ability to work together and share information,” said Maj. John Baughman, the JTF watch officer during the exercise. “We also gained knowledge and experience on how to conduct a large-scale joint operation.”
FL07 provided an environment for military planners and leaders from all components to gain knowledge and experience in information sharing, military decision making and command and control while conducting joint operations in a crisis situation.
According to General Bishop, the observers and trainers from Joint Forces Command, along with European Command’s Joint Enabling Team, helped set the stage for the 3rd Air Force planners and contributed to the overall success of the exercise.
“The professionalism of all the folks who participated in this exercise is unmatched,” said General Bishop. “I’ve participated in nine or ten of these and this one was by far the best one yet.”
“The evaluators cited 3rd Air Force’s (Operational Planning Team) planning process as a best practice,” he added. “That is representative of the professionals who meet weekly to plan for all of 3rd Air Force operations and contingencies.”
FL07 is a Commander, USEUCOM-directed training event to certify the 3rd Air Force commander as a Joint Task Force commander, and the Naval Forces Europe Commander as a Joint Force Maritime Component commander. Certification is a process for a commander to determine the readiness of the staff to perform essential tasks associated with operating in a joint environment.
“I think the whole education of how a very complex system works makes it so much easier to be able to respond when, and I do say ‘when,’ the next humanitarian crisis occurs,” said General Bishop.