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​A US Air Force KC-10 Extender with the 305th Air Mobility Wing at JB McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., taxies past Mount Rainer after landing at JB Lewis-McChord Wash., July 31, 2017. More than 3,000 airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines and international partners converged on the state of Washington in support of Mobility Guardian. Air Force photo by TSgt. Jared Becker.

—Brian Everstine

JB Lewis-McChord, Wash.—More than 60 mobility aircraft took to the skies of Washington state Wednesday, linking with fighters from across the Northwest to fight their way into the Inland Northwest in the first day of Air Mobility Command’s largest-ever exercise.

After Wednesday’s elephant walk-like takeoff of C-17s and C-130s, packed full of heavy equipment and paratroopers, crews for the next two weeks will practice every aspect of AMC’s mission, including airfield seizure and set up, aeromedical evacuation, airdrop, and logistics at a remote airfield.

“It’s a great opportunity to train like we fight,” said Col. Johnny LaMontagne, the combined forces air component commander for the exercise.

More than 65 aircraft and more than 3,000 personnel are taking part in the exercise, which was more than two years in the making. Twenty-five partner nations are either watching or participating, including international aircraft such as C-17s, C-130s, A-400s, and CASA 295s.

On Tuesday afternoon, much of the participants piled into a McChord hangar for a welcome briefing.

The international focus is on interoperability and mutual understanding, said Brig. Gen. Brian Robinson, the director of operations for headquarters Air Mobility Command.

“We’re going to do this as a partnership,” he said.

For the USAF component, there was a push to the invited units that they send their younger crews, said exercise director Lt. Col. Jeremy Wagner. The intense flight operations—going 24/7 beginning Wednesday morning—is a chance for those crews to “really get in and wring out the jet.”