TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Teams from the 60th Air Mobility Wing and 621st Contingency Response Wing at Travis Air Force Base, California, combined their efforts July 31 to Aug. 3 to support the deployment of more than 130 contingency response Airmen in support of Exercise Mobility Guardian.
Based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Mobility Guardian 2017 is both the inaugural iteration of the exercise and the largest-scale readiness exercise Air Mobility Command has undertaken, according to AMC officials. More than 3,000 joint and coalition personnel are participating in the simulated deployment, which aims to “train like we fight” and enhance the U.S. military's global response force by integrating complex, realistic mobility training with partner nations.
“This is a big exercise to ensure our joint and coalition partners have the interoperability to perform their mission the way they would in the (area of responsibility),” said 1st Lt. Andrew Sherk, 60th Logistics Readiness Squadron installation deployment officer. “This is their opportunity here, stateside, to literally practice like they operate.”
Though Mobility Guardian officially began July 31, planning and preparation between the two wings at Travis began much earlier - a year and a half ago, when ideas first started coming together.
Travis is supporting the exercise in two ways. Primarily, the 60th AMW is supporting the 621st CRW as 138 Airmen deploy to two of the exercise’s locations where they will establish airfield operations for other exercise participants.
“Typically, your (contingency response group) would be the first Air Force unit to stand up, in some cases, a bare-base environment to make it aircraft-worthy, where aircraft can land and perform operations,” said Todd Barnes, 60th LRS assistant installation deployment officer. “(At Mobility Guardian), they will basically sustain airfield operations at (the training locations) to prepare for incoming aircraft and passengers from international and national partners.”
Secondly, aircrew members from the 60th AMW’s 6th and 9th Air Refueling Squadrons and 21st Airlift Squadron will participate in the exercise, operating out of JBLM to fly various air refueling, airlift and aeromedical evacuation sorties. One KC-10 Extender from Travis is also supporting the exercise.
Providing support for such a large-scale exercise simulated as a real-world deployment takes months of combined effort and seamless teamwork between the two wings, said Maj. Jessica Bishop, 60th AMW command post chief and the wing’s lead point of contact for Mobility Guardian.
“(Our goal is) to see the 60th (AMW) be able to accomplish the deployment of the (621st) CRW successfully,” she said. “We’ve done position of the force exercises previously, but this is a big movement for us here at the 60th.”
To process the entire group at once, along with their corresponding cargo and aircraft needs, exercise representatives from both wings worked together to implement several functions. They are the same functions used for deployment scenarios, allowing personnel to mimic how they would operate in deployed environments.
“(The overall goal is) to check everything with 100 percent accuracy, making sure everyone has everything they need because they can’t leave without it,” said Senior Airman Samantha Bambino, 60th Force Support Squadron outbound assignments and career development technician and a PDF eligibility representative. “You need to have attention to detail to make sure you’re not missing anything… our job is important because we worry about both the members and their families.”
Each deploying Airman processed through a personnel deployment function line, where representatives at each station ensured they and their families had everything they needed prior to leaving.
To address cargo needs, personnel grouped into cargo deployment functions worked together with the 60th Aerial Port Squadron to ensure cargo was loaded where and when it needed to be on each aircraft. To oversee all cargo and personnel going out the door, representatives from both wings formed a deployment control center, which activates to process large groups and acts as a central hub for all deployment-related operations.
“For larger deployments, typically 25 or more people at a single time, we’ll stand up the DCC,” said Sherk. “We’ll have representatives from supply, transportation, the CDF, the PDF and our partner units… The DCC is our focal point to oversee all passengers and cargo processing, and from there we can ensure on-time departures and quickly mitigate any issues that come up.”
Several other squadrons support the effort by coordinating each detail of the operation, ensuring the process flows smoothly.
“Support agencies have to work together for the small details- where passengers are going to process, who’s going to check the weapons, (and) how passengers are going to get out to the aircraft, for example,” said Bishop. “It’s been awesome to watch all the different organizations on base come together to make this happen.”
“(The DCC representatives) are the ones looking in the system, looking at all the tasked personnel, all the tasked cargo, and outlining it,” said Sherk. “They’re the ones I think are the unsung heroes, along with the people inspecting the cargo. They do such a good job at it that when aircraft take off you think it’s nothing, but you don’t understand all the work it takes to make sure all the weights are correct or if there’s any missing paperwork. They make that all work on time flawlessly. There are a lot of people that do little things to make the mission happen.”
Aside from contributing hundreds of hours of manpower, Team Travis has overcome several obstacles, including the airflow challenge of C-5M fleet shortages at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.
“Travis has done an amazing job trying to overcome that obstacle by providing extra airlift and finding ways around it to get the (621st) CRW cargo and passengers to locations later this week,” said Bishop.
Nothing could have been accomplished without the close teamwork between the two wings to make the mission happen, said Barnes.
“The (621st) CRW is part of Team Travis,” he said. “We pull out all the stops to provide the support they need to get off the base, and they in turn provide support to us. We work side-by-side with them to make sure it gets done.”
As a result, 621st CRW Airmen are able to play a pivotal role in Mobility Guardian.
“For the scenarios that all the other exercise players are going to do (at Mobility Guardian), they need those airfields open,” said Bishop. “(621st CRW Airmen) are a main piece of this exercise because they’re going into that airfield, that austere environment, and allowing other exercise players to go in and practice their capabilities.”
Supported by the logistical, planning and operational efforts between the two wings, 138 Airmen are prepared to support the exercise.
“The success of this exercise is due to the sum of all its parts,” said Bishop. “All the (representatives) who have helped plan this over the last year and a half are the reasons why we’re going to succeed. It’s opened up conversations between two wings and allowed us to engage in those relationships and see how the other side operates… we’re training exactly like we fight.”