MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii — A 315th Airlift Wing unit finished its most recent joint-service training exercise Jan. 29, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Teaming up with Federal Emergency Management Agency, the FBI, Army, Coast Guard and Marine Corps, the 315th Contingency Response Flight completed Exercise Patriot Palm, a joint-service emergency and natural disaster response exercise, coordinated by the Air Force Reserve. The event is designed to integrate first responders from federal, state and local agencies, and the military by providing rapid response training.
“We’re here at Patriot Palm exercising our capability to rapidly deploy and set up mobility operations in austere locations,” said Maj. Michael McDonald, 315th CRF contingency response exercise commander. “We are also training our government brother agencies such as the FBI, Coast Guard and Army to be able to prepare their cargo and fly on military airlift aircraft.”
Where it all starts
A number of key things needed to occur at mission start to ensure the success of operations, including communications.
“For exercises like Patriot Palm, where we are simulating providing support during an emergency or natural disaster, we need to establish air-to-air communications so we can communicate with aircraft, as well as air-to-ground communications with other event players at the different ground locations,” said Tech. Sgt. Gregory McClain, 315th CRF radio frequency transmission journeyman. “When we set up communications, we give our command and control the ability to talk to all the mission resources, maximizing the span of mission control.”
To simulate real-world events, the teams set up command and control within minutes of arriving at the three separate exercise locations across the Hawaiian Islands.
From there, airfield management stood up and mission operations began.
Teams provided air transportation ground support, moved cargo and vehicles and flew aeromedical training missions, simulating real-world emergency and disaster response.
Key mission players
Between the planning and operational phases of the exercise, the CRF worked with key federal agencies and military branches to make the mission a success. At play were FEMA, the FBI, Army military intelligence personnel and a Coast Guard maritime safety and security team.
Soldiers were able to refresh critical skills for the rapid movement of equipment and personnel. For the Coast Guard, the exercise provided an opportunity to interface and integrate rapid response sea operations with airlift capability in a way never attempted before.
“The asset we brought to the mission is a 29-foot RB-S II response boat, which is new to our unit and hasn’t travelled via military airlift yet,” said Lt. j.g. Eric Juback, Coast Guard’s maritime safety and security team operations officer. “This is the first time in the history of the (Defense Department) we are moving this model boat on a C-17 aircraft, which is an amazing accomplishment we are extremely proud of pioneering.”
Responsible for maritime protection and security throughout the U.S., the Honolulu-based team previously had to use smaller boats and make multiple trips via a C-130 Hercules to get their gear and vehicles to a response.
With the C-17 Globemaster III’s rapid mobility, large payload and length, the MSST can now move it all in one fell swoop to respond to national disasters like what was needed for Hurricane Katrina and other emergencies like it, Juback said.
“We sometimes are notified to mobilize in an eight-hour window, so this capability allows us to grow our capability to be able to get anywhere in the nation quickly,” he said.
The final outcome
Outside of the joint-service partners at play, Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, and March Air Reserve Base, California, Aerospace Evacuation Squadron teams worked in concert on the medical side of the exercise, exchanging knowledge and building important partnerships, according to Capt. Lacie Jacobs, a 315th AES medical corps officer on the mission.
Air transportation teams with the 81st Aerial Port Squadron at JB Charleston completed a number of training objectives. Teams got the chance to load personnel, cargo, sea and land vehicles.
“This training was very important because I’ve seen firsthand the impact it can have on human lives,” McDonald said. “I grew up in Florida, I’ve survived hurricanes. I’ve seen the FEMA trucks rolling in with water bottles and food. Being on this side of it, it feels very good that I know that I’m being a part of bringing in those supplies, so this is a very fulfilling mission we are training for here.”