WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawai'i — The normally quiet airstrips of Wheeler Army Airfield have transformed into a buzzing hub of military activity as airfield operations increase their support the 25th Infantry Division’s Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Capability (JPMRC) exercise. The airfield, which traditionally accommodates helicopters from the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade and unmanned aerial systems, has expanded its operations to include large fixed-wing aircraft, significantly increasing its traffic and operational intensity.
"Since the onset of the joint and multi-national exercise around October 27, operations have been ceaseless, functioning round-the-clock," stated James Knight, Wheeler Army Airfield's Airfield Manager. Knight highlighted a significant surge in activity, particularly noting an exceptional increase in fixed-wing operations involving C-17s and C-130s, marking an unprecedented level of activity compared to recent years.
This year's exercise has supported air and ground traffic averaging 850 movements per day, a substantial escalation from last year's exercise, which supported only five C-17s. The marked uptick in operations underscores the expanding scope and scale of the training exercises, reflecting a heightened focus on readiness and capability across the joint forces.
The airfield's operations team has been working tirelessly to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of these aircraft, coordinating closely with air traffic control, and conducting regular airfield inspections for potential safety hazards.
Rory Turner of Wheeler Army Airfield Base Operations noted the logistical complexity involved. "Our workflow has at least quadrupled," he explained. "We're not just managing our helicopters now but also processing the influx of C-17s and C-130s, ensuring they're smoothly integrated into the national airspace."
The expanded operations have necessitated a collaborative effort with other military and civilian agencies to coordinate the use of airspace and ensure safety. This has included issuing Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) to inform the local flying community of the military exercises and the potential hazards they may present.
Despite the challenges, including increased noise concerns and the need to close roads around the airfield for safety, the exercise has been a success, with all involved units contributing to an effective and efficient operation.
"It's been intense," said Spc. Jennifer Arreola, now a rated controller thanks to the rigorous training provided during the exercise. "We've had to remain vigilant, but it has been rewarding to see all the pieces come together."
In addition to supporting JPMRC, the Wheeler team has continued to move forward with multi-million dollar infrastructure projects, which began two years ago, such as new maintenance hangars for the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, while simultaneously deconflicting current operations to maintain safety.
"This exercise has tested our capabilities and shown our ability to adapt and manage a significant increase in operations," said Samuel (Reggie) Aricayos, Wheeler Airfield Operations, manager. "It's about orchestrating everything in concert, and I'm proud of how our team has handled the challenge."