Soldiers participate in joint exercise at AAFB

Altus_Some Fort Sill soldiers put Air Force hats to do the job Altus Air Force Base personnel traditionally do during a deployment.  52 soldiers from the 214th FIRES Brigade travelled to the base for Tuesday's training, an exercise taking place once every three months since July, 2008.  However, this week was the first time during the joint exercise held the base allowed 7News to capture the action.

The soldiers did work that the Air Force usually performs during an actual deployment to see what airmen go through.  Officials say it helps the actual deployment run more smoothly.

Sergeant James Nolan normally mans a rocket launcher at Fort Sill, but on Tuesday he - along with other soldiers - boarded an aircraft to get their security briefing.  Then, they loaded up the vehicles and chained them down.  It was Nolan's first time on a joint deployment exercise at the base, and he says it was eye-opening.  "I didn't know they could put this many vehicles on an airplane," he said.

Although he has been in the Army for six years, he says this time was his first time to learn how some of those in this branch of the Armed Forces do their jobs - and do one himself.  "It's cool because it's all nice and safe, and everything's tied down, so nothing's going anywhere," said Nolan.

Staff Sergeant Mike Morris with Altus Air Force Base helped oversee the exercise.  He says it isn't only for soldiers such as Nolan - who have been in the Army for several years - but, it's a vivid introduction to what the Air Force does for younger recruits.  "A lot of kids these days - coming out of high school - are working at McDonalds or Wal-Mart...it's a big long stretch from doing this kind of work," he said.

Nolan says every branch of the military should work together in joint exercises more often.  "It's basically for guys who come, basically out of basic training, that, say, might have been in high school a year ago," he said.  "They come out here, and they go to load this equipment, and they see this big equipment and know we're helping guys go to Afghanistan and Iraq."

Soldiers also convoyed with their cargo to the base as if they were traveling in the joint exercises within Afghanistan or Iraq.  After Tuesday's exercise, Fort Sill's soldiers participating will have loaded and unloaded 1.5 million pounds of cargo.  Morris says the exercise has grown since it began last July.