Operation Dark Night helps prepare forces

USAF: Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom U.S. soldiers with the 3rd Special Forces Group, simulate dragging a wounded soldier to safety during a training exercise Sept. 20 at Melrose Range. The training consisted of several different scenarios and was designed to prepare the special operators for situations they could encounter on real world missions.

By Airman 1st Class Jette Carr: 27th SOW Public Affairs

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — Flying squadrons from the 27th Special Operations Wing performed a joint base exercise, Operation Dark Night, with the 3rd Special Forces Group from Fort Bragg, N.C. Sept. 21-22. at Melrose Air Force Range.

Operation Dark Night incorporated the AC-130H Spectre Gunship and MC-130W Dragon Spear into the exercise, adding a realistic flair for both sides. The aircraft provided air support for ground forces during a simulation of a downed air crew and recovery of personnel, said Capt. Jeff McMaster, 16th Special Operations Wing AC-130H Spectre Gunship pilot.

“I believe this is the first time outside ground crews from another base have come in through a 27 SOW initiated exercise,” said McMaster. Instead of other bases contacting Cannon Air Force Base to set up an exercise specifically for their troops, Cannon is soliciting outside ground forces to better train the aircrews here, he said.

“Exercises like this one with the U.S. Special Forces soldiers, are an event that we would like to do every twice a year,” said McMaster.

During most exercises for the AC-130H Spectre gunship, the 16 SOS doesn’t have joint operations forces to work with, so it’s generally simulated, said Staff Sgt. Oscar Garcia, 16 SOS aerial gunner. He said this exercise with the Army Special Forces helped the situation feel more realistic.

“It’s closer to being down range and saving lives,” he said. “Things happen faster when you have blank rounds firing at you and muzzle flash. It’s good training. This way we are able to learn at home, help prevent mistakes and make each asset that much stronger before deployment.”

The 3rd SFGA captain said he jumped at an opportunity to come out to Melrose Air Force Range because the Army Special Forces do many joint operations with the Air Force.

“It’s great for the troops to get the opportunity to gain an understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the aircraft and aircrews now before they go overseas,” said the green beret. “The planning portion of the exercise and execution itself on the objective were very close to what we do. It helped a lot.”

The 27 SOW hopes to perform many training operations such as this in the future, said McMaster.