Exercise Home Plate ensures AMOS ready for humanitarian, disaster, evacuation missions

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Nathan Tawbush
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Approximately 50 total force air mobility operations Airmen from various units across the U.S. came together at Travis Air Force Base, California, to participate in a simulated humanitarian aid and aeromedical evacuation exercise Oct. 16-23.

Throughout Exercise Home Plate, Airmen coordinated aeromedical evacuations and disaster relief airlift in response to a scenario involving a simulated earthquake and subsequent tsunami near the island of Okinawa, Japan.

“Due to the continuing need for airlift and air refueling operations, these areas are typically the focus of our exercises,” said Lt. Col. Steven Hawkins, 321st Air Mobility Operations Squadron director of operations. “In this case, we wanted to take the opportunity to focus on the training objectives for aeromedical evacuation operations.”

According to the lead planner for the exercise, aeromedical evacuation, or AE, is the rapid evacuation of the injured or ill requiring inflight medical personnel to ensure the safety of the evacuees as well as the aircrew.

“During a humanitarian response, it’s important for us to think about not only the movement of supplies but also the logistical transportation of patients,” said Maj. Michelle Sanchez, 321st AMOS aeromedical evacuation team chief. “When dealing with such a large area such as the Pacific, there is much more to consider.”

The exercise required continual coordination among five specialized teams within the 321st AMOS “Mastermind” unit, whose vast array of 26 Air Force specialty codes come together to craft a consistent logistical plan to meet air mobility needs.

“It’s a complex puzzle, and the pieces are always changing,” said Maj. Hank Goldsmith, 321st AMOS deputy air refueling team chief. “The requirements are always evolving, and we have to adjust the plan based on the latest priorities to make the puzzle work.”

Expertise and specialties combine to mold the pieces of that puzzle, with all members of each team contributing their knowledge and expertise to how the pieces will fit.

“Airlift begins and ends with requirements,” said Staff Sgt. Hector Montoya, 321st AMOS airlift requirements planner. “A requirement drives us to plan how we’re going to meet a need through the use of available crews, aircraft, and fuel to move passengers, cargo, and resources from where they are now to where they need to be — when they need to be there.”

Underlying the efforts of all the teams is an extensive communications infrastructure needed to maintain a single operating picture.

“Communications are the backbone to all of it,” said Senior Airman Nickolis Kemp, 321st AMOS cyber systems operator. “We ensure that the teams have the system access they need to operate in any air operations center, and that system access is always available through constant hardware updates to mirror what the AOCs are using. We maintain the servers that keep everyone connected.”

The exercise included the integration of active duty and reserve partner units, contributing to the role that each team plays in accomplishing the mission.

“This team monitors the pulse of daily mobility operations and adjusts the missions as required,” said Lt. Col. James Chongris, 321st AMOS air mobility control team chief. “When we augment an AOC, we rely on expertise from our reserve partners. It takes the whole team.”