TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
The deafening sound of jet engines running hung heavy in the hot and humid air. This is where Contingency Response Airmen worked, each layered with armored helmets, bulletproof vests, fire-retardant uniforms and slung M-4 carbines across their chests.
Attentive eyes scanned each operating location for any sign of simulated threats while the constant heat radiated off the tarmac. It caused a palpable sweat to bead down their faces, yet they remained focused. Their movements were consistent; they were precise. Trained through repetition, each CR Airman was equipped with the expertise of opening and operating air bases. As the sun rose and set, each Airmen made sure that every aircraft was prepared for takeoff and all cargo was loaded safely, and without concern, no matter the time.
Despite the conditions, commitment to the mission never wavered.
This was the test Agile Flag 23-1 provided as a large, total force exercise at Savannah Air National Guard Base, Georgia, and it was where 102 Devil Raiders participated Feb. 28 to March 8.
Additionally, AGF 23-1 provides the Air Combat Command relevant, combat credible forces through the USAF Force Generation cycle (AFFROGEN).
“Devil Raiders have cognitive adaptability and mental resilience to overcome any challenge,” said Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Cope, the 921st Contingency Response Squadron senior enlisted leader and Contingency Response Element (CRE) SEL. “Whether known or unknown, our leaders at all levels showcase what a battlefield Airmen’s mentality can be, and CR builds the model for others to follow.”
CR units are comprised of multi-capable Airmen of many different unit training codes and are revered for the immediate ability to respond in times of crisis and/or natural disaster.
“The CRE at Savannah supported the Joint Force Commander and Joint Force Air Component Commander employment of global effects on near-immediate timelines,” said Lt. Col. Kenya Serna, the 821st Contingency Response Support Squadron commander and one of three AGF 23-1 CRE commanders. “We contributed to a joint warfighting concept focused on resilient, survivable and supportable distributed operations by supporting the Lead Wing: the 366th Fighter Wing from Mountain Home, Idaho.”
Lead Wings are tailorable force packages designed to rapidly establish logistics and communications, receive follow-on forces and generate as well as project combat air power across all domains, while making critical decisions needed to remain agile. The CR’s participation during AGF 23-1, as air base operation experts, was to directly contribute to 366th FW’s certification and success as a Lead Wing for future deployments.
“In anticipation of AFFROGEN, Exercise Agile Flag prepared the participating units to operate in a contested environment,” said Serna. “To provide a rapid response, execute across the full spectrum of operating locations, employ dispersed and agile operations, effectively integrate manpower and have timely and effective transportation and movement.”
This certification training exercise bi-laterally hits on two major priorities: USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr.’s priority to validate a Lead Wing’s ability to deploy, employ, sustain forces and execute priority Mission Essential Tasks in a degraded and operationally limited environment. It also aligns itself with the 2018 National Defense Strategy’s priority to synchronize how the entire service will operate, train, and equip (OT&E) for the future operational environment.
“Multiple entities came together to execute the mission,” said Serna. “Each entity is well-versed in their respective capabilities, but it takes time to merge tactical and operational teams that have never worked together. Exercises like Agile Flag train personnel to learn the constraints that can be mitigated in future exercises and operations.”
Besides the CR presence, the exercise included active duty and guard Airmen from the 366th FW, 70th Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, 820th Base Defense Group, 4th Fighter Squadron, 52nd Combat Communications Squadron, 186th Airlift Squadron, 103rd AS, 526th Intelligence Squadron and 53rd Air Traffic Control Squadron making this a total force effort.
According to the CR’s OT&E White Cell evaluation team, the CRE impacted AGF 23-1 by: palatizing 75 increments, joint inspecting 17 chalks, transporting 118 tons of cargo and 202 passengers, consigning six mission capable parts for three C-130s and completing 31 individual missions over seven days.
“Our Airmen’s eagerness to learn and teach multi-capable skills is a foundation of contingency response, which by nature of the mission, has bred multi-capable Airmen since the inception of the 621st Contingency Response Wing,” said Serna. “Airmen of various Air Force Specialty Codes have learned to marshal aircraft, operate forklifts, spot drivers, build pallets and operate radios. All our Airmen are essential to the mission.”