WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. --
More than 100 military members and civilian personnel worked together to support Patriot Clipper, a joint forces exercise stationed out of Westover during the week of July 11, 2016.
Patriot Clipper tested the ability of the military and its civilian counterparts to work together and respond to a natural disaster at forward operating locations and full range operations in high threat regions with forces rapidly deploying and redeploying.
“We are simulating being at a bare base where we need to get personnel and support equipment into our theater of operations,” said Maj. Jessica Rose, member of the 439th Airlift Control Flight and commander of the exercise Contingency Response Element. “We’re specifically simulating how we would respond to an earthquake, hurricane, or any other kind of humanitarian disaster.”
The goal of the mission was to open the airfield and set up a CRE and Joint Task Force, creating capability for incoming mission support, security, troop sustainment, search and rescue, law enforcement, and base defense to deploy teams to multiple incidents and operation areas.
Members of the 439th ALCF and Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 302nd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the Marine Air Support Squadron 6 from Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass.; 452nd ALCF from March Air Reserve Base, Calif.; Army National Guard MEB from Natick, Mass., 103 rd Airlift Wing from Bradley Field, Conn.; and the Federal Emergency Management Agency from Maynard, Mass., all participated in the exercise.
“The teamwork has been outstanding,” Rose said. “It’s always great to get cross-talk. There should not be a Westover way or a March way; There should be an Air Force way,” she said.
“Every day we build upon the past day,” said A1C Bryam Descua-Rodriguez, member of the 439th AES. “Every day has gotten smoother for us, and we’ve really learned from each other.”
Working as a joint-task force is not something that many Citizen Airmen, or reserve soldiers and Marines have had the opportunity to do. “I’ve never worked with any other branch, so it was a good learning experience in how their cultures work and how ours intertwines with theirs,” said Descua-Rodriguez.
Three Air Force aircraft were utilized during the exercise. The C-5 Galaxy, C-17 Globemaster and C-130 Hercules transported cargo and passengers from Westover to Plattsburgh, International Airport, N.Y., Pease Air National Guard base, N.H., and the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station at Cape Cod, Mass. “We have already transported more than 290,000 pounds of cargo and performed more than 20 sorties in a four-day period,” said Rose.
However, due to the nature of the mission and the unpredictability of how aircraft will hold up during these types of exercises, there were some unexpected curve balls thrown at the ALCF CRE commander and support staff during the exercise.
The biggest challenge always seems to be the readiness of the planes, said Rose. “No matter when you need to get cargo into theater, planes break along the way. The biggest challenge for us is then how to get the people and cargo into out theater of operations.”
Although the AES does not work directly with the air flow planning or maintenance of aircraft, their members also felt the blowback from aircraft malfunctions. “You should always be really flexible and don’t get down on yourself if something doesn’t go your way,” said Descua-Rodriguez. “You have to find a way to get the mission done.”
As reservists, the members participating in this exercise are not exposed to these types of events as regularly as their active duty counterparts, so there is often a steep learning curve when jumping into an exercise like this. However, it’s also why, as Citizen Airmen, we perform exercises regularly, to be ready to take action at a moments’ need.
“The reserve ALCFs provide 45% of the entire Air Force capability for the global air mobility mission. That’s no small feat,” said Rose. “Having these exercises to prove our worth to leadership, the Air Force and reserves is a critical part.”
Citizen Airmen must also balance their part-time military work life with their civilian jobs or family life. “I think my family certainly realizes the importance of my mission here and how I fit into the Air Force and the critical part we deliver for the U.S.,” said Rose.
As the exercise began drawing down, all participants seemed to be in agreement that the exercise was extremely educational and worth all the hard work that was put into it. “It’s always fun and a learning experience working with everyone, and I hope to do it again in the near future,” said Corp. Kofi Boateng, a Marine soldier working with the MAS.