MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.Â –Â Five Reserve units and a federal agency teamed up April 26 to 29 in Florida for Patriot Sands, an airlift training exercise simulating deployed bare base conditions with limited support.
Reservists with the 512th Airlift Control Flight, Dover Air Force Base, Del., 452d ALCF, March Air Reserve Base, Calif., and 439th ALCF, Westover ARB, Mass., trained with twoÂ FBI Rapid Deployment Teams from New York and Washington, D.C.
The Air Force Reserve Command has five airlift control flights, which consist of experienced airlift personnel to manage, coordinate and control air mobility assets. Depending on the mission, the specialized units may have to set up in an austere area, which was the purpose of the exercise–to gain experience and train in a fast-paced environment.
â€œWe are part of contingency operations and if there is a surge in military operations or a natural disaster we have 36 hours to get on a plane and head to a location that needs us, and we set up a mobile command post,â€ said Capt. Jessica Rose, Contingency Response Element commander with the 439th ALCF.
The 512th ALCF was staged at MacDill AFB, Fla., and the 439th ALCF operated out of Patrick AFB, Fla., while the 452d ALCF worked at both locations. The units controlled airflow between the two bases. The exercise involved several units and utilized a C-130 from the 43d Airlift Group, Pope Field, N.C., a C-17 from the 446th Airlift Wing, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and a C-17 and C-5M from Dover AFB.
Participating from March ARB were Master Sgt. Darolyn Dale who deployed to Macdill AFB while Lt. Col. Ray Danowski, Senior Master Sgt. Jeff Wootten and Master Sgt. Adam Black (Fourth Air Force) went to Patrick AFB. Wootten was further deployed to Belle Chase, La, for a real world operation shortly after arriving at Patrick AFB demonstrating the tremendous demand and flexibility of this unit. Team March members served as trainers during the exercise since Patriot Sands emulates the 452d Airlift Control Flightâ€™s home-grown exercise Patriot Hook, which is AFRCâ€™s longest running exercise.
Master Sgt. Sean Pyne, 512th ALCF loadmaster, planned the exercise for almost 60 airmen to include reservists with Doverâ€™s 46th Aerial Port Squadron and Westoverâ€™s 42d Aerial Port Squadron. He said Patriot Sands provided vital training by presenting opportunities for airmen to get experience establishing a parking area for aircraft, offloading and uploading cargo and managing aircraft arrival and departure times, while ensuring load plans and cargo were correctly configured for shipment.
The training was not only for airmen.
â€œWe do the command and control of airplanes, passengers and equipment but as such, we need passengers and equipment to track,â€ said Rose. â€œSo, we help an affiliate, and in this case itâ€™s the FBI because if the FBI has to respond quickly to an event, they use Air Force assets. They need practice on how to load their equipment onto the plane, and we need the practice on how to track that plane. So, itâ€™s a good fit for both of us.â€
Reserve ALCFs and active-duty Contingency Response Groups work with the FBI Rapid Deployment Teams as part of the Air Mobility Command Affiliate Program. The New York and Washington, D.C. RDT participated in this exercise because they are affiliates of the 512th ALCF.
â€œOur mission is to deploy anywhere, anytime within a certain amount of time depending on the incident and location,â€ said Amy Landman, FBI supervisory special agent.
The RDT consists of a variety of response teams specializing in areas such as hazardous materials, evidence collection and special weapons and tactics. They deploy state-side and overseas to support FBI missions, which can range from terrorist to criminal incidents against the United States.
â€œAs part of the affiliate program, we teach people equipment preparation and load planning, so they can get their cargo prepared for airlift on Air Mobility Command aircraft and delivered to locations throughout the world,â€ said Master Sgt. Henry Fortney, 512th ALCF loadmaster and exercise planner.
In addition to classroom instruction, Patriot Sands provided hands-on training for the RDTs.
â€œWe have some really good loadmasters, and we have some brand new guys, too,â€ said Landman, who added the New York and Washington D.C. FBI RDTs participate in about two exercises a year. â€œFor a few of us, itâ€™s the first time tying things down and seeing this side of military airlift.â€
â€œThese guys need to be able to get out of town on their own,â€ said Pyne, who works for the FBI as a logistics management specialist. â€œThis means they have to do all the weighing, measuring, marking, taping, load plans; everything independently. Patriot Sands allowed them to get out, get on a plane, practice moving, do their uploads and downloads, and become proficient. They also got to work with our aerial porters and learn from them.â€
â€œWe try to link up with our Reserve affiliates as they have their mandates for training as well,â€ said Landman. â€œThis is a joint training effort; we couldnâ€™t do it without them; thatâ€™s for sure.â€
Training such as this is vital when the time comes to respond to a crisis, said Lt. Col. Mark Visco, 512th ALCF commander. In January 2010, the unit responded within 12 hours to run air operations at Homestead ARB, Fla., to provide humanitarian relief supplies to the earthquake-ravaged Haiti as part of Operation Unified Response. Over a two-week period, their unit had more than 600 aircraft bringing thousands of tons of cargo from all different types of agencies in and out of Homestead ARB bound for the Caribbean nation.
â€œIt was a record-setting operation, never before accomplished in AFRC,â€ said Visco. â€œOur preparation, like the training we are accomplishing here at MacDill, ensured we were up to the task and ready to respond.â€