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Montana Air National Guard participates in Southern Katipo Exercise

A five-ship formation flight of C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster IIIs from Hawaii, Alaska and Montana fly during the multinational Southern Katipo Exercise held in New Zealand. A 120th Airlift Wing C-130 and its aircrew participated in the exercise November 2015. (Courtesy photo)

A five-ship formation flight of C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster IIIs from Hawaii, Alaska and Montana fly during the multinational Southern Katipo Exercise held in New Zealand. A 120th Airlift Wing C-130 and its aircrew participated in the exercise November 2015. (Courtesy photo)

120th Airlift Wing Loadmaster Master Sgt. Raegen Robertson retrives a parachute deployment bag after airdropping a container delivery load (CDL) over the South Island during the multinational Southern Katipo Exercise held in New Zealand November 2015. (Courtesy photo)

120th Airlift Wing Loadmaster Master Sgt. Raegen Robertson retrives a parachute deployment bag after airdropping a container delivery load (CDL) over the South Island during the multinational Southern Katipo Exercise held in New Zealand November 2015. (Courtesy photo)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Nineteen members from the 120th Airlift Wing traveled to Ohakea Air Force Base, New Zealand to participate in the multinational Southern Katipo Exercise October 26.  The crew of the C-130 Hercules participated in land-to-air missions and air-drop missions.  The exercise is designed to foster cooperation and interoperability between partner nations. 

"Southern Katipo is an air, land, and sea exercise conducted in New Zealand from mid-October to late-November," according to trip report notes.  "It's a multinational exercise with the following nations: Australia, Papua New Guinea, Great Britain, France, Fiji, Tonga, Canada, and the United States."

C-130 Hercules aircraft were utilized from Montana, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, and a C-17 participated from Hawaii to complete training missions according to Master Sgt. Raegen Robertson, a loadmaster from the 186th Airlift Squadron.          

Montana guardsmen flew multiple missions transporting Australian and New Zealand security forces and their dogs; dropped high and low velocity bundles, transported pallets and vehicles, and completed a five-ship formation where all the aircraft dropped two container delivery systems, according to Robertson. 

"We work with partner nations to do air-to-land and air-drop missions," said Maj. Patrick Murphy, 186th AS troop commander.  "Everybody does things a little bit differently so learning things from the Australians and learning from New Zealand things that we can use and hopefully help them out too."

Traveling to and from New Zealand as well as participating in the exercise was an excellent training opportunity for the 186th AS.

"It was good [flight] going over all the checklists and going over water," Robertson said.  I've haven't gone over water.  It was good doing all the PAX [passenger] briefs and getting all the LPUs [life preserver units] passed out to everyone."

Montana Air National Guard members experienced cargo training with our allied forces.

"If we go overseas into the AOR [Area of Responsibility] where it isn't only Americans; we're still working with everyone, fighting the same mission," Robertson said.  "We're learning how they do it and they learn how we do it."                        

The 186th AS brought their own maintenance crew to prepare their aircraft for flight and to repair any unforeseen maintenance issues.

"The crew chiefs deal primarily with the aircraft being good overall so making sure it has enough fuel on board, the tires are good, hydraulics and oil is good on the aircraft," said Tech. Sgt. Taylor Thoroughman, 186th AS crew chief.  "We had to take a crew chief on every flight because if they landed on the airstrip and blew a tire they'd have to change it because it would shut down the whole exercise.  We got to see a lot of country."

Not only did 120th AW members train and build relationships with allies but they also learned about a new culture.

"The country itself is beautiful; it was springtime down there and the weather was pretty nice," Robertson said.  "It rained a little bit and the wind blew a little but nothing like here.  It was green everywhere.  The guys were amazing.  The catering for every flight was amazing.  We got fed really well.  The locals were all really nice they liked having us there."

Members of the 120AW look forward to returning to New Zealand in 2017 if the opportunity is there. 

"It was a great trip, I'd do it again," Robertson said.  "I'd raise my hand for sure."
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