Air Force personnel at the Advanced Airlift Tactics Training Center, or AATTC, at Fort Huachuca may not be your average installation patrons; they come to Fort Huachuca one week out of the month to train.
For the remainder of the time, they are based out of Rosecrans Air National Guard Base, in Saint Joseph, Mo. The advanced airlift tactics training that takes place on Fort Huachuca is a portion of the two-week course offered to train the already skilled Air Force members.
“These guys are fully qualified in doing everything that they do, they just don’t get a chance to practice that much. We call this the master’s level training in tactical flying,” said Lt. Col. Ed Schindler, director of operations for AATTC.
The AATTC is allied with 16 nations, including Denmark, Australia, Germany to Israel. During their training last week at Fort Huachuca, the AATTC had teams from Italy, Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota and a team of Marines practicing.
The AATTC school started in 1983 at Fort Huachuca, starting the partnership for this type of training between Missouri and Arizona. The facility is actually owned by the Arizona National Guard but the Missouri group is currently its sole user.
The Missouri team is a group of roughly 100 people each month. Instructors, students or aircrews that are made up of teams from all over the world and country support staff, as well as the maintainers for the airplanes make the training possible.
The course starts in Missouri with a few days of academics, and then two days of flying in Missouri, “It is kind of a crawl, walk, run. Our sorties in Missouri are a lot more academic then doing exercises and defeating enemy threats,” Schindler said.
“When we come down here, we treat it like a deployed environment. This environment here is very similar to some of the desert environments we fly into overseas, and they then get to train at a high pressure altitude, which means the aircraft doesn’t perform as well as it normally does at different altitudes. So it is a great environment here at the Fort Huachuca area and mixed with the mountains, and the open desert areas,” Schindler added.
“It is great flying training because the weather is always nice, except for the winds blowing when monsoons come, but for the most part it’s nice weather and very open airspace. It is not heavily trafficked with other airplanes,” Schindler said.
The group typically flies two scheduled sorties a day, and they are a mixture of pilot competence sorties, where they fly aggressively near terrain, and also mix in scenario-driven combat type sorties, hostile environment type sorties. The training culminates at the end of the week with a graduation exercise, where the aircrews are given almost no instruction like they would receive in Missouri.
“For the most part at Fort Huachuca we just instruct the pilots. We are not armed normally, our basic mission is to take things that last tactical mile to a Forward Operating Base or location and if we can do an air land we rather do that because we can get more stuff in to the folks on the ground,” said Col. Ed Black, commander, AATTC.
“If we have a landing zone we can carry more things but if there is not a landing zone there, then we can also do an air drop where we can drop anything from vehicles to water, food, more ammunition, you name it,” he added. “We can also drop personnel in as far as paratroops; really our mission is to get those people and things and stuff to the front line so that’s what we are training to do. And in Fort Huachuca, in this area we will do all of that to try to train our crews.”
The AATTC does not actually own any airplanes, they just provide the instructors and learning environment. Each crew brings their own planes to train with.
Schindler explained some of the training that air crews participate in while at Fort Huachuca. “We do low level navigation in the mountains, we will in some sorties have fighters from Luke Air Force base in Tucson come and attack them and they have to defend themselves against that and we will help them learn how to defeat a fighter. Most people think a large transport aircraft would be a sitting duck but it’s really not true if you properly apply flying tactics. That’s a very rewarding sortie for most people and then we’ll also do airdrop sorties, they’ll come and land on the south zone, the Hubbard landing zone which is an unimproved dirt strip, that they have to land on, which can be similar to those when deployed,” he added.
“This is a great resource that the nation has because it is not congested with air traffic, just this open land to do this type of training. Most countries don’t have that ability. This specific course is only offered in Arizona and Missouri — it is a very unique course that is tailored specifically to air crew performance in an academic environment,” Black said.
“The Army is our customer, what I mean is ultimately what we do with this airplane is primarily to feed or to meet the needs of the ground forces of the Army. It is extremely versatile in that sense where you can drop off ammunition then pick up wounded Soldiers. Fire trucks, pallets, wounded patients, food, supplies etcetera. it varies based upon what they can fit at the time but it is very versatile.”