CR Airmen test new capabilities, enable joint forces

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing successfully tested new command and control concepts and sling load capabilities while participating in Green Flag Little Rock 21-01 recently at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.

One scenario was particularly valuable in exploring how the contingency response element might assume C2 of Mobility Air Forces in the event of Air Operations Center disruption.

According to Lt. Col. Dan Richardson, 821st Contingency Response Support Squadron operations officer, to mitigate this challenge with C2, the joint force has emphasized a concept called “mission type orders.”  Rather than relying on centralized control, decentralized execution – a tenet of airpower – there is a recognition that, in a contested environment, the joint force commander must be prepared to temporarily transition to decentralized control and decentralized execution during attacks on C2 capabilities.

“This is not easy to do. It pushes the authority and responsibility for operational C2 down the chain of command to lower echelons,” he said. “In the case of [this exercise], it temporarily pushed operational C2 of mobility assets in the exercise joint operations area from the 618th AOC to the CRE.

“All of this ensures that in a fight against a capable adversary, the loss of primary operational C2 channels doesn’t stop the JFC’s ability to fight,” he added. “CR has a large role to play in that space as first responders with organic C2 equipment and personnel, and this exercise allowed us to explore how we might accelerate change to our C2 capabilities.”

For Tech. Sgt. Nicole McLaurin, 921st Contingency Response Squadron C2 operations controller, this exercise was the first of its kind.

“I’ve been in the CR for four years and have had the privilege of experiencing many exercises, but this one was different,” she said. “At two different points, [Air Mobility Division] was unable to provide C2 and we had to take over operations for the entire theater. The mobile C2 team needed to develop a plan on how we would ensure that ops didn’t stop.”

To do this, the CRE had to figure out what the joint force commander needed to continue the fight. For example, when and where personnel and equipment were needed.

“We coordinated with the drop and landing zones down range, which enabled resupply for the Army,” McLaurin said. “It felt great to see the actual impact we were having — it was an awesome experience!"

In another example of accelerating change, the CR team also honed their sling load capabilities while working alongside Soldiers from the 77th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Camp Robinson, Arkansas.

Together, they tested the ability of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to effectively sling load a Polaris MRZR all-terrain vehicle, a first for Air Mobility Command.

To further this capability, Airmen from the 621st CRS together with Soldiers from the 3rd CAB out of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, trained on simultaneously sling loading two HMMWVS on CH-47 Chinook helicopters during Exercise Guardian Shield, which was held Nov. 2-6 at the North Auxiliary Airfield near Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina.

Adding sling loading to the CR tool kit will help U.S. Transportation Command deploy contingency response teams faster to areas of need. It will also allow the assessment team, also known as “Alpha Mike,” the ability to rapidly deploy their small eight-man teams, vehicles and equipment to insert into an airfield post-hurricane or a combat landing zone in a contested or degraded environment.

“Sling load of the MRZR was an operational proof of concept for the CRW. This provides the CRW and combatant commanders with additional rotary wing options for inserting into an airfield with an unknown status,” said Maj. Brian Crawford, 921st CRS assessment team lead. “The Airmen of the 621st CRW assumed risk and moved past previous limitations to further our mission.”