Returning to its roots as a former U.S. Air Force base, North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field played host to an armed forces training operation on Saturday. Members of the 1st Battalion of the 143rd Airborne conducted "Operation Viking," in which more than 200 troops and support equipment were airlifted into Texoma to simulate the capture of the airport by Army personnel.

Returning to its roots as a former U.S. Air Force base, North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field played host to an armed forces training operation on Saturday. Members of the 1st Battalion of the 143rd Airborne conducted "Operation Viking," in which more than 200 troops and support equipment were airlifted into Texoma to simulate the capture of the airport by Army personnel.


Original plans for the operation called for more than 160 paratroopers to lead the mock attack, secure land aircraft and unload additional personnel, vehicles and supplies. However, plans were changed late Friday, removing parachuting from the operation, said Lt. Col. Max Krupp.


The three-hour operation was a joint training mission between the Texas Army National Guard and Air Force. All told, more than 300 personnel were involved in staging the event, including cadets from the Texas Tech Reserve Officer Training Corps, who acted as opposing forces.


Two C-130 Hercules transport planes acted as the tip of the pretend spear, approaching from the north and landing at faster-than-normal speeds just before 10:30 a.m. Those were followed closely by a pair of C-17 Globemasters, which are larger, more powerful and jet propelled.


The C-17s completed a brief taxi before dropping their cargo doors and unloading members of the Austin-based 1st Battalion, followed by Humvee support vehicles. Troops then worked their way south and west from the airport’s main runway toward a hill designated as their target. No blanks were used during the war game in order to minimize the clean-up needed afterward, said authorities at the scene.


Though the training exercise was not technically open to the public, the sprawling and diffuse nature of the airport left plenty of opportunity for curious spectators, and Guard officials did not object. Numerous hangars were opened by tenants for shaded observation, and a few dozen visitors set up lawn chairs near the facility’s control tower.


The operation was first discussed with the Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority Board in December, when Capt. Michael Hess presented early plans to the Board. Hess said it was his in-laws, who live in Denison, who suggested an operation be conducted at the airport. The name for the operation came from Texoma’s northerly location, compared to the group’s base at Camp Mabry in Austin.


While the Operation was in effect, the airport remained closed to civilian air traffic. That arrangement initially created some concern for NTRA leaders.


"Anytime you close civilian operations at the airport, you restrict many of the businesses out there," said NTRA Director Mike Shahan. Despite these concerns, many of the businesses were OK with the brief closure, said Shahan.


"They recognize the importance the (armed forces) have in protecting all of us," he said.


Shahan said the operation could benefit the airport by generating greater awareness for the NTRA.


"Any time you can do an event that draws public interest, and is a positive event, it is a plus for us," he said.


Those who missed the opportunity to see some of the military’s biggest birds may very well get another chance. A Guard spokesman at the event said Saturday’s Operation was just the first of three the Army hopes to hold at NTRA, with a November mission planned next. If all goes according to plan, a nighttime training exercise would complete the trifecta sometime next year.


"We’re all about, ‘You crawl, then walk, then run,’" said Army Maj. Randy Stillinger.