FORT GREELY, Alaska --
Over the course of 12 days in October with temperatures dropping below freezing in the “Last Frontier” Airmen from the 621stContingency Response Wing provided rapid global mobility expertise during RED FLAG-Alaska 17-1.
The 621st CRW Airmen worked three different locations throughout Alaska assuring Paratroopers with the 4th Brigade Combat Team Airborne, 25th Infantry Division and their cargo smoothly transition between the different airfields.
“The CRW’s role in the exercise is twofold,” said Maj. Dave Sustello, 621st Contingency Response Support Squadron assistant operations officer. “We are setting up an intermediate staging base at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to push cargo out the door, and also have an 18 member team traveling to Allen Army Airfield and Donnelly Landing Zone to receive that cargo. This is all in support of the 4/25 IBCT as they conduct a forced entry into the [landing zone] as part of the exercise.”
Red Flag is a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. forces, it provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment.
Exercises like RF-A provide contingency response Airmen the opportunity to work with Soldiers and strengthens the wings inter-service partnerships.
“It gives us another opportunity to work with the Army, and do things like the Haiti support (Joint Task Force Matthew) we are taking part in right now," said Sustello. “This is yet another arena, [it's] just Pacific Command as opposed to Northern Command or Southern Command. They all have slightly different rules and challenges with interoperability that you learn to work through. Through this exercise, we are paving the way for future support to PACOM operations.”
“The challenge with working with the Army, or any mission partner, is not having clear expectations of what each partner is bringing to the endeavor,” said Master Sgt. Brian Beaty, 921st CRS, contingency response team ramp coordinator. "In spite of this, one of the benefits is the opportunity to clearly articulate what our capabilities are and coming to an agreement on what is being asked of us to help complete the mission.”
Throughout RF-A CR Airmen worked with aircrew and aircraft from JBER, Joint-Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and Dyess Air Force Base, Texas as well as international aircrews and aircraft from the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Republic of Korea Air Force.
The 621st CRW is a bicoastal wing with units stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakenhurst, New Jersey and at Travis Air Force Base, California. RF-A allowed CR Airmen who are usually geographically separated to work together and build upon their already established relationships.
“We don’t usually have the opportunity to take part in inter-wing exercises, so we are really getting to build on relationships that we already have and solidify them from a wing-level standpoint,” said Sustello. “It has been great making closer partnerships with the CR Airmen from Travis AFB and I think it will really pay off in the future.”
This was the first time that CR Airmen participated in a RF-A exercise and have used the experience to enhance future CR missions.
“The Airmen have been outstanding, especially considering the challenges of never having participated in RF-A,” said Sustello. “They have hit the ground running, working hard building relationships with the Joint Base and our Army partners. This is a great way to take something we haven’t done before and translate that into success for future CR operations.”
The team did very well,” said Beaty. “As is the norm within the CRW, the members all step up and volunteer to help one another get things done. This has contributed to a smooth, efficient, and safe mission.”