Westover unit hones skills during Patriot Hook exercise

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Shane M. Phipps
  • 439th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 439th Contingency Response Flight, from Westover Air Reserve Base, participated in the annual Patriot Hook exercise, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, April 10 through 15.

The air mobility exercise focused on the ability to rapidly deploy troops and cargo in the event of a humanitarian crisis. The 439th CRF simulated a joint-environment and mutual aid agreements alongside various federal and local organizations including local law enforcement, the Army, Coast Guard, FBI and other Air Mobility and Air Force Reserve Command units.

“Overall, this exercise is simulating a response to an earthquake in southern California,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Ulrich, 439th CRF operations officer. “The 439th CRF has been tasked to come to Vandenberg and set up airlift operations to bring in personnel and equipment and ferry them throughout the area of operation.”

Vandenberg Air Force Base, located on the central coast of California, was one of the primary staging areas. The exercise also took place at other California locations including the Bob Hope Burbank Airport, Naval Air Station North Island, and March Air Reserve Base. Throughout all of these locations members from different agencies practiced quickly loading and transporting cargo from one location to another.

“We have 16 Soldiers participating in this exercise,” said U.S. Army Capt. Ricardo Tolentino, 314th Military Intelligence Battalion ready force officer-in-charge. “This helps us practice rapidly deploying our Soldiers and equipment. It’s been a great opportunity to work with the Air Force because they’ve been able to facilitate our ability to familiarize ourselves with the aircraft.”

For exercise coordinators, Patriot Hook is an opportunity for participants to gain hands-on knowledge they’ll need in the midst of the chaos of a real crisis.

“It’s crucial for the CRF and emergency responders to participate in exercises like this so they can have an idea of the time and effort it takes to load their specialized equipment on C-17s, C-5s and C-130s,” said Ulrich. “It’s vital that people from completely different organizations are able to work smoothly together, because that’s how it would need to be in a real situation.”

Members of the Coast Guard were able to master loading essential emergency response equipment onto an Air Force C-17, with assistance from 439th CRF Airmen.

“Joining in this exercise is a really big deal for us,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Copeland, Deployable Communications Force machinery technician. “We only have smaller aircraft, and in order to transport some of this specialized equipment we need to use a larger aircraft provided by the Air Force. This allows us to practice working with the Air Force and loading our equipment onto their aircraft -- so everything happens quickly in an emergency.”

CRF leadership considers Patriot Hook 2019 a success, and is proud of the important training accomplished and inter-agency cooperation,

“This exercise went really well,” said Lt. Col. Shirley Whitney, 439th CRF commander. “It was huge to be able to do a static-load with the Coast Guard. That was a difficult upload and they were able to practice load-planning in multiple configurations. It was great training.”

Though the 439th CRF is comprised of eight different Air Force Specialty Codes and provides a unique opportunity to serve in a variety of environments – the unit currently has multiple vacant positions.

“We definitely need some motivated individuals to join the team,” said Whitney. “We’re looking for loadmasters and communications troops. We have five to six different exercises we do per-year, which allows our reservists to do their job in exciting environments.”

For information on joining the CRF, contact Air Force Reserve recruiting at (413) 557-2332.