FORT IRWIN, Calif.- Helmet-mounted red lights danced across the inside of the pitch black belly of a C-17 Globemaster III moments after landing while Airmen rushed to unbind hulking chains from Strykers weighing more than 49,000 pounds, Sept. 10, 2015.
Soldiers of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, partnered with the 21st Airlift Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, California, to deploy four Stryker vehicles and more than 40 personnel into a contested area of the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, during training rotation 15-10.
"Working with the Army is something that we consistently do," said Capt. Justin Pletcher, instructor pilot, 21st Airlift Squadron. "This operation simulates going into another country under the cover of darkness, unnoticed and into an austere airfield."
All of the Airmen and Soldiers involved faced the challenges of conducting a tactical approach by a C-17 Globemaster III at night and exiting from the jet in less than 15 minutes before rapidly securing an airfield.
"One of the great reasons why we do this is for the practice," said Pletcher, a native of Stoughton, Wisconsin. "I've been flying the aircraft for more than four and a half years, a little over 2000 hours, and this is my first time doing this type of insertion."
Minutes before the tactical landing, Soldiers will ensure that all personal communication equipment, night vision goggles and weapon optics were ready for dismounted manuevers.
Once the C-17 Globemaster III landed and Soldiers received confirmation from the flight crew, everyone but the ground guides and vehicle commanders entered the Strykers.
The dismounted Soldiers then immediately secured the area at a safe distance from the C-17 Globemaster III as the jet crew began performing their procedures for takeoff.
Sgt. 1st Class Philip Streagle, infantry platoon sergeant, 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div., said that the joint air mobility operations allow for Soldiers to get to the fight faster and sustain it longer.
"Light infantry units jump in but they're limited by what they can carry. We can carry a lot more on a Stryker, so we can support them," said Streagle, who's been in a Stryker unit for the last 14 years. "We bring a lot to the fight being able to support lighter units."
Col. David Hodne, commander, 1st SBCT, 4th Inf. Div., addressed the Soldiers before they left for the airfield and stressed the importance of their mission.
"You're doing something that matters for our Army," said Hodne. "Treat the entry into this environment as you would treat entry into any other nation that we're waging coalition warfare with."
Continued joint operations between the 21st Airlift Squadron and 1st SBCT, 4th Inf., offers the United States military the ability to move combat power across the world.