353rd SOG and RNZAF increase partnership capacity

A U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron MC-130H Combat Talon II flies in formation with a Royal New Zealand Air Force 40th Squadron C-130, April 22, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Executing airborne operations throughout Exercise Teak Net, the formation flight symbolized the strength of a partnership that has evolved over the years. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo by Capt. Kevin Knutson)

A U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron MC-130H Combat Talon II flies in formation with a Royal New Zealand Air Force 40th Squadron C-130, April 22, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Executing airborne operations throughout Exercise Teak Net, the formation flight symbolized the strength of a partnership that has evolved over the years. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo by Capt. Kevin Knutson)

A U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron evaluator navigator delivers a mission briefing to Royal New Zealand Air Force 40th Squadron and 1st SOS aircrew prior to formation flying operations, April 22, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. The combined mission involving a formation flight with two U.S. Air Force MC-130s and one RNZAF C-130 demonstrated the strength of the alliance between the United States and New Zealand (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

A U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron evaluator navigator delivers a mission briefing to Royal New Zealand Air Force 40th Squadron and 1st SOS aircrew prior to formation flying operations, April 22, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. The combined mission involving a formation flight with two U.S. Air Force MC-130s and one RNZAF C-130 demonstrated the strength of the alliance between the United States and New Zealand (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

A U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, April 14, 2017 over the Pacific. The 353rd Special Operations Group traveled from Kadena Air Base, Japan to Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Auckland, New Zealand, to support Exercise Teak Net. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

A U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, April 14, 2017 over the Pacific. The 353rd Special Operations Group traveled from Kadena Air Base, Japan to Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Auckland, New Zealand, to support Exercise Teak Net. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron pilots looks out the window of a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II during a formation flight with Royal New Zealand Air Force 40th Squadron, April 22, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Exercise Teak Net provided the opportunity at further developing interoperability with counterparts from the RNZAF through daily airborne operations to include low-level formation work and tactical operations on night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron pilots looks out the window of a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II during a formation flight with Royal New Zealand Air Force 40th Squadron, April 22, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Exercise Teak Net provided the opportunity at further developing interoperability with counterparts from the RNZAF through daily airborne operations to include low-level formation work and tactical operations on night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

A U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron pilot looks out the window of a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II during a formation flight with Royal New Zealand Air Force 40th Squadron, April 22, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Exercise Teak Net provided the opportunity at further developing interoperability with counterparts from the RNZAF through daily airborne operations to include low-level formation work and tactical operations on night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

A U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron pilot looks out the window of a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II during a formation flight with Royal New Zealand Air Force 40th Squadron, April 22, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Exercise Teak Net provided the opportunity at further developing interoperability with counterparts from the RNZAF through daily airborne operations to include low-level formation work and tactical operations on night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

A U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron loadmaster and Special Operations Forces Medical Element (SOFME) medic assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron push a bundle out the side door of a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II during airdrop training, April 22, 2017 at Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. The 1st SOS exchanged the best techniques and procedures with RNZAF 40th Squadron during Exercise Teak Net. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

A U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron loadmaster and Special Operations Forces Medical Element (SOFME) medic assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron push a bundle out the side door of a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II during airdrop training, April 22, 2017 at Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. The 1st SOS exchanged the best techniques and procedures with RNZAF 40th Squadron during Exercise Teak Net. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

A U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron MC-130H Combat Talon II flies in formation with a Royal New Zealand Air Force 40th Squadron C-130, April 22, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Executing airborne operations throughout Exercise Teak Net, the formation flight symbolized the strength of a partnership that has evolved over the years. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo by Capt. Kevin Knutson)

A U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron MC-130H Combat Talon II flies in formation with a Royal New Zealand Air Force 40th Squadron C-130, April 22, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Executing airborne operations throughout Exercise Teak Net, the formation flight symbolized the strength of a partnership that has evolved over the years. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo by Capt. Kevin Knutson)

A Royal New Zealand Air Force logistics officer and Royal Australian Air Force exchange pilot sit in the back of a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron during a combined formation flight, April 22, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. The combined mission demonstrated the strength of the alliance between the United States and New Zealand (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

A Royal New Zealand Air Force logistics officer and Royal Australian Air Force exchange pilot sit in the back of a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron during a combined formation flight, April 22, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. The combined mission demonstrated the strength of the alliance between the United States and New Zealand (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

New recruits from Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Woodbourne perform a haka dance for the 353rd Special Operations Group to show appreciation, April 28, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. The haka started as a war dance by the Maori people of New Zealand and has been incorporated into the RNZAF’s cultural heritage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

New recruits from Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Woodbourne perform a haka dance for the 353rd Special Operations Group to show appreciation, April 28, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. The haka started as a war dance by the Maori people of New Zealand and has been incorporated into the RNZAF’s cultural heritage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron loadmasters unload cargo at Royal New Air Force Base Woodbourne, New Zealand on April 18, 2017. Members of the 353rd Special Operations Group increased military cooperation with the RNZAF partners during the fourth iteration of Exercise Teak Net, which took place April 15-18, 2017 at RNZAF Base Auckland and April 18-28, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)
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U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron loadmasters unload cargo at Royal New Air Force Base Woodbourne, New Zealand on April 18, 2017. Members of the 353rd Special Operations Group increased military cooperation with the RNZAF partners during the fourth iteration of Exercise Teak Net, which took place April 15-18, 2017 at RNZAF Base Auckland and April 18-28, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

A U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces Medical Element (SOFME) medic demonstrates the equipment she uses during an exchange with Royal New Zealand Air Force medics, April 26, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. The main objective of the medical exchange was to work closely with RNZAF partners, share experiences and exchange tactics, training and procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)
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A U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces Medical Element (SOFME) medic demonstrates the equipment she uses during an exchange with Royal New Zealand Air Force medics, April 26, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. The main objective of the medical exchange was to work closely with RNZAF partners, share experiences and exchange tactics, training and procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

A U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces Medical Element (SOFME) medic instructs a Royal New Zealand Air Force medic on how to set up litter during a casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) exercise, April 26, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Following 2-weeks of subject matter expert exchanges, the SOFME and RNZAF medics executed a CASEVAC from a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)
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A U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces Medical Element (SOFME) medic instructs a Royal New Zealand Air Force medic on how to set up litter during a casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) exercise, April 26, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Following 2-weeks of subject matter expert exchanges, the SOFME and RNZAF medics executed a CASEVAC from a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

A U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces Medical Element (SOFME) medic assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron looks out the window of a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron during airdrop training, April 22, 2017 at Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Experts in specialized aviation, the 1st SOS executed airdrops, low-level and formation flights in New Zealand’s unique mountainous terrain. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)
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A U.S. Air Force Special Operations Forces Medical Element (SOFME) medic assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron looks out the window of a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II assigned to the 1st Special Operations Squadron during airdrop training, April 22, 2017 at Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Experts in specialized aviation, the 1st SOS executed airdrops, low-level and formation flights in New Zealand’s unique mountainous terrain. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron navigator and electronic warfare officer prepare a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II for take-off prior to airdrop and nighttime low-level training, April 26, 2017 at Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Experts in specialized aviation, the 1st SOS executed airdrops, low-level and formation flights in New Zealand’s unique mountainous terrain. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)
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U.S. Air Force 1st Special Operations Squadron navigator and electronic warfare officer prepare a U.S. Air Force MC-130H Combat Talon II for take-off prior to airdrop and nighttime low-level training, April 26, 2017 at Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Woodbourne, New Zealand. Experts in specialized aviation, the 1st SOS executed airdrops, low-level and formation flights in New Zealand’s unique mountainous terrain. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jessica Tait)

RNZAF BASE WOODBOURNE, New Zealand -- Members of the 353rd Special Operations Group increased military cooperation with the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) during the fourth iteration of Exercise Teak Net, which took place April 15-18, 2017 at RNZAF Base Auckland and April 18-28, 2017 at RNZAF Base Woodbourne, New Zealand.

“The military cooperation between the U.S. and New Zealand is important as we attempt to address some of the world’s greatest challenges,” said Col William Freeman, 353rd SOG commander. “Exercise Teak Net is a classic example of a perfect exchange in which we are learning a lot from our partners in the areas of maintenance, medical and flying operations. We have reciprocated through instruction on a few of our different techniques, tactics and procedures (TTPs).”

After a 25-year absence, the 353rd SOG returned to New Zealand in 2014 to build-up the relationship with RNZAF 40th Squadron.

“This year we focused on further developing our partnership capacity and interoperability with 40th SQDN through low-level formation work and tactical operations on night vision goggles (NVGs),” said Maj. Mark Schmidt, mission commander for Exercise Teak Net. “The professional foundations and friendships established over the previous three exercises enabled this year’s training to progress to the next level.”

The group deployed with 40th SQDN to RNZAF Base Woodbourne as a part of their largest annual exercise.

“While executing Exercise Teak Net, we were fortunate enough to deploy with our Kiwi partners as they conducted Exercise Skytrain,” said Schmidt. “We lived and worked in the same spaces and conduct daily sorties together, which has never happened before.”

New Zealand’s unique mountainous terrain provided the ideal environment for the MC-130H Combat Talon II to conduct day and night visual low-level and operations with their terrain-following radar, which enables the 1st Special Operations Squadron to infiltrate areas undetected and at night by hiding in the terrain and weather.

“This is some of the best flying and training I’ve ever had,” said Capt. Valerie Knight, 1st SOS MC-130H Combat Talon II weapons instructor pilot. “This trip is very comparable to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) exercises that we do and the kiwis have done a great job of sharing what they’ve seen downrange and encompassing that into the scenario.”

In addition to general flying operations, Special Operations Forces Medical Element (SOFME) personnel conducted a subject-matter expert exchange with RNZAF medics from Woodbourne Air Base, which culminated with a low-light, low-level casualty evacuation (CASEVAC).

“The main purpose of our engagement was to work closely with our host nation partners, share experiences and exchange TTPs,” said Tech Sgt. John Rinaldi, 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron SOFME medic. “I think both sides learned a lot during the CASEVAC exercise and overall it was a huge success.”

The 353rd SOG had the opportunity to showcase the critical role they play in the Pacific to the U.S. Embassy New Zealand Chargé d'Affaires and staffers during a visit, April 19-20, 2017.

“The Chargé d'Affaires stated this is the closest the U.S. and New Zealand militaries have been in 30 years and attributes these exercises to helping build that relationship both militarily and politically,” said Schmidt. “For the first time since our group has returned to New Zealand, we have been asked to participate in their ANZAC Day parade and we couldn’t be more honored. This year’s exercise has truly been the pinnacle of interoperability with the New Zealanders.”

Exercise Teak Net is an annual joint, combined exchange training (JCET) focused on improving interoperability between the U.S. and New Zealand militaries.