A joint response exercise here brought Air Force and federal agencies together for a national contingency exercise, Feb. 21-23.
Patriot Sands 2013 brought Reserve Airmen and federal government agencies together to learn first-hand what they would experience in the event of a national contingency. By the end of the three-day exercise, the combined team of Airmen and federal employees generated 12 airlift missions, moved nearly 200 passengers and airlifted 1,560 tons of cargo. A contingency response element from the 439th Airlift Wing, Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., led the effort.
“This revalidated the FBI’s and FEMA’s abilities to respond to contingencies with our people and aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Rodney Furr, the operations officer for the exercise.
Shortly after the contingency response operations got under way Feb. 22, C-17 Globemasters from Dover Air Force Base, Del., and Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, shuttled FEMA and FBI assets from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. The reserve’s 512th Airlift Control Flight was the lead unit at the base.
FBI and FEMA employees drove trucks and trailers from the C-17 Globemasters and onto a Westover ARB C-5 Galaxy for familiarization training in a simulated emergency response. The C-5 Galaxy, flown in with the Westover ARB contingency response element and more than 70,000 pounds of cargo, was also used for static loading.
More than 30 Patriot Wing airmen formed a contingency response element team. Six additional Airmen from the Air Force Reserve’s 433rd Airlift Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, also took part.
“This is a great training opportunity for the young troops,” said MSgt. Careyann Patterson, the 58th Aerial Port Squadron air transportation craftsman.
SrA. Maryellen Santiago, an air transportation specialist with the 58th APS, joined the unit just eight months ago. She volunteered after learning her unit needed an exercise position filled.
“This was first-hand exposure to what it would be like to be deployed,” Santiago said. “I feel good that I’m trusted to operate machinery around aircraft – each worth millions of dollars. This made me get really focused on the detail of our operations.”
Santiago and the team of aerial port airmen waited near the flight line for each arrival, climbing aboard the aircraft to assist loadmasters in securing the trucks and trailers driven onto the C-17 Globemasters by FEMA and FBI employees. The FEMA and FBI set up a short-term deployment site at MacDill AFB before returning to Homestead ARB.
In addition to processing cargo and passengers, CRE airmen showed FEMA and FBI teams how to secure vehicles aboard the C-17 Globemasters.
“I showed a woman from the FBI how to tie down a truck,” Santiago said. “A while later she said she’d been able to do it herself with another one.”
SMSgt. Desmond Mullally, the ALCF superintendent, said one of the most important objectives of Patriot Sands was to give the junior enlisted a chance to get valuable training.
An example of that training was when Senior Airman Elizabeth Antunez, a ALCF personnel specialist, wielded a pair of marshaling wands – for the first time. A few hundred feet away, a C-17 Globemaster crew awaited her direction.
“I felt like a tiny person next to that huge airplane,” she said. “But in terms of responsibility and control, I felt big.”