High Rollers’ first-ever resupply with unique Special Operations Forces horsemanship exercise

  • Published
  • By Maj. Joseph Jaquish
  • 152nd Airlift Wing

The 152nd Airlift Wing successfully completed its first-ever airlift resupply support effort during the advanced horsemanship training course last month at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center here.

The objective of the Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC), and the horsemanship course, is to teach personnel the necessary skills to enable them to ride horses, load pack animals and maintain animals for military applications in remote and dangerous environments. 

It’s a very unique course because it combines the conventional warfare tactics of the Marine Corps, modern aerial resupply with asymmetrical warfare used by Special Operations Forces and convention transportation predating the invention of the automobile: horseback.

The factors that can dictate the use of pack animals for military objectives vary; many countries have terrain without roads or are otherwise impassable with motor vehicles. While almost any animal can be trained to pack, the Marine Corps uses nine basic pack species: dog, elephant, llama, camel, horse, ox, donkey, mules and even reindeer.

This most recent horsemanship exercise included airlift support, which given the remote environments, is the only viable means of resupply during extended missions.  That’s where the Nevada Air National Guard came in for the training.

The same hazards of impassable terrain with extreme weather conditions to ground personnel affect aircraft as well.  Various types of unique equipment to be delivered, close proximity to terrain, strong and unpredictable wind shear conditions, and narrow terrain corridors make aerial resupply very challenging and dangerous. 

The animals can traverse any type of terrain and can reach places that vehicles can’t.  They never have to use a road or set trail, so the risk of improvised explosive devices or ambush is significantly reduced.  These advantages coincide with other complex considerations, such as aerial resupply.  Given that the 152nd Airlift Wing instructs mountain flying tactics to all C-130 units in the Guard, Reserves, and Active Duty, the Nevada Air National Guard is the premier unit to provide airlift support for future Special Operations Forces horsemanship exercises. We can expect to see the relationship of airlift and horsemanship to continue well into the future.

It’s too easy to forget that all of us in the Air Force are in the business of customer service.  It was a joy and honor to be directly asked to participate in this MARSOC exercise. Nothing makes me happier than mission accomplishment. If our sister-service members are successful in part due to our efforts, then it is my great pleasure to continue to serve them.