About 3,000 troops and more than 40 U.S. aircraft will train like they’re at war starting next week at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

Air Mobility Command is hosting its inaugural Mobility Guardian readiness exercise in the Pacific Northwest to integrate more airmen into training that puts all of AMC’s capabilities to the test. Think of it as the mobility equivalent of Air Combat Command’s Red Flag exercise.

The airmen will be joined by soldiers, Marine and naval aviators, and service members from more than 20 countries — with half participating in the training scenarios and half observing.

The exercise will include a wide variety of war requirements, including joint forcible entry, airfield seizure, assault zone landings, night-vision operations and airdrops. There will also be a joint mission between Air Force airdrop crews and the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.


It will also test all of the command’s core competencies including airlift, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support operations.

Mobility Guardian replaces the command’s Rodeo competitions, which pitted top airmen against each other — and international participants — in a friendly competition. The last one was in 2011, and since then the Rodeo has been discontinued. 

That’s when the idea for a new exercise began to take shape. 

“Instead of doing a competition where we’re only training the most experienced and the people with the most expertise, what if we opened it up and trained the masses,” Lt. Col. Jeremy Wagner, the exercise’s director, told Air Force Times.

Aerial porters from the 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron load cargo onto a C-17 Globemaster on Sunday at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. More than 100 Team Little Rock members will lead, coordinate and execute maintenance operations during Mobility Guardian 2017. The exercise will test each of Air Mobility Command’s core competencies including airlift, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support operations. (Staff Sgt. Harry Brexel/Air Force)
Aerial porters from the 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron load cargo onto a C-17 Globemaster on Sunday at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. More than 100 Team Little Rock members will lead, coordinate and execute maintenance operations during Mobility Guardian 2017. The exercise will test each of Air Mobility Command’s core competencies including airlift, air refueling, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support operations. (Staff Sgt. Harry Brexel/Air Force)

Mobility Guardian, which runs July 31-Aug. 12, puts the spotlight on junior crew members.

“The focus has been to give them the most realistic training so they’re better capable of fighting our nation’s wars,” Wagner said.

The exercise incorporates all of Air Mobility Command’s assets, and the planning included input from multiple units.

“It’s kind of unprecedented how we’ve brought folks from so many different units together,” he said.

Airmen were asked what the perfect exercise for their unit’s particular aircraft would look like, and Mobility Guardian planners incorporated their feedback.

The participating aircraft include C-130s, C-17s, C-5s, KC-10s and KC-135s, as well as F-15s and A-10s.

Charlsy Panzino covers the Guard and Reserve, training, technology, operations and features for Army Times and Air Force Times. Email her at cpanzino@militarytimes.com.