Members of Team March’s Airlift Control Flight and Aerial Port Support Flight responded to a call to support a deployment exercise July 25 involving members of the Los Angeles County Urban Search and Rescue team, who in an exercise scenario, were responding from Pacoima, California.
The West Coast team, considered an affiliate of March ARB was responding to a short notice/no notice exercise initiated by their federal partner, the United States Agency for International Development.
Early in the morning on July 25, members of the team were notified that they would need to prepare a heavy equipment cache for departure from their location in Pacoima and drive to March Air Reserve Base. Upon arrival at March they would enlist the support of the ALCF and APSF in weighing, palletizing and loading their equipment cache aboard an awaiting C-17. Termination of the exercise would occur when the team and their equipment completed loading aboard the aircraft.
Master Sgt. Chris Alcala, the ALCF’s affiliation Program Manager and C-17 Loadmaster, talked about how the base gets involved in supporting this type of operation.
“My job as the Affiliation Program manager when it comes to exercises like this is to be the liaison from outside organizations like FEMA and LA County Fire, to be their conduit to the base,” said Alcala. “So when these exercises or real-world missions pop up, I’m typically their first call when it comes to talking to the Air Force so that I can start posturing folks here on the base whether it is Aerial Port or the flying squadron to get these guys ready to go for their arrival.”
When the team arrived at March, members of the APSF responded and assisted the Fire Department by off-loading the team’s equipment.
Master Sgt. Kimberly Jones, Duty Officer for the Air Terminal Operations Center discussed how her team supported the deployment exercise.
“When LA County Fire arrived we immediately began unloading their equipment off of their tractor trailers and prepared the equipment for joint inspection,” said Jones. “We then loaded the cargo onto K-loaders, transported it to a static C-17 and prepared it for loading aboard the aircraft. Once the equipment and firefighters were aboard, the exercise end time was called back to LA County Fire.”
The teams at March also benefit from exercise like this through the off-loading and on-loading of different sized pallets, each having different weights. Palletizing and load planning is a critical step in ensuring that an operation such as this goes smoothly.
Tech Sgt. Augustine Corona, a load crew team chief for this operation, talked about some of the steps necessary for this type of exercise.
“We were called in today to support a joint exercise for the LA County Fire Department. We conduct a joint inspection with them, and then do some load-planning depending on what type of aircraft it is,” said Corona. “In this case it’s a C-17 and we will assist them by loading their equipment.”
This exercise was intended to test the search and rescue team’s response time. According to John Boyle, battalion chief and program manager for the Urban Search and Rescue team, the goal was met.
“In coordination with FEMA which is our domestic federal partner, and USAID which is our international USAR partner, we should be able to depart our point of assembly within four hours and arrive at our point of departure within six hours,” said Boyle. “So we met those goals today and we had pretty good teamwork on the joint inspection and up-loading of the aircraft.”
The LACFD has deployed before from March on missions to Haiti, Iran and the Japan earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
“Everybody just came together,” added Alcala. “It’s a real testament to how everybody can come together at March and move a mission whether its exercise or real-world.”