In a massive collaboration of more than 350 military, federal, and state personnel, and five Air Force Reserve Command Wings convened in California April 26 - May,1 to participate in Patriot Hook. The six-day exercise spanned across three sites in California, simulating austere Forward Operating Locations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, March Air Reserve Base, and Naval Air Station North Island.
Total force members from the respective bases, teamed up with affiliates to train and fine tune procedures to improve deployment processes, when responding to regional or national disasters at a moment’s call.
This year’s exercise was led by the 433rd Contingency Response Flight assigned to the 433rd Airlift Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, who managed operations at the other sites. Additional support on the ground, consisted of the 821st Contingency Response Group, Travis Air Force Base, California, and active-duty members from the 621st Contingency Response Group from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, who provided support across the three FOL’s for a true Total Force integrated mission.
“Exercise Patriot Hook is an annual AFRC exercise that focuses on the air mobility of Air Force Reserve, the Army, Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland security assets,” said Maj. Robert Acosta, 433rd CRF and Contingency Response Element commander. “The Air Force CREs are responsible for assisting them to quickly deploy to a forward theater, a specific airfield of tasking, for quick arrival, quick forward movement, and finally, execution of their designated mission. The overall objective for their participation is to learn how to deploy with minimal support from the Air Force.”
Augmenting the exercise in the air, were two 433rd AW, JBSA-Lackland, Texas, C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft; two C-17A Globemaster IIIs, one from the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, March Air Reserve Base, California, and the other from the 315th Airlift Wing from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, and a C-130H Hercules from the 910th Airlift Wing, Youngstown-Warren Air Reserve Station, Ohio.
Other affiliates that participated in the exercise include the U.S. Coast Guard; the Federal Bureau of Investigations Rapid Deployment Team, Los Angeles; Department of Homeland Security Investigations Rapid Response Team; the Federal Emergency Management Agency California Task Forces, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol; the California Air National Guard, and the U.S. Army Reserve.
For the first time during a Patriot Hook exercise, two medical squadrons came together with the objective of enhancing their skills in a combat simulated scenario. The 433rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron, who is responsible for patient movement on the ground, and the 433rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, who are responsible for the medical care of military members, while in the air.
“The collaboration that we have noticed between the two squadrons has been fantastic, we are learning about each other’s missions, and how we can come together for one big mission,” said, Critical Care Nurse, Maj. Luis Berrios, 433rd AES, acting troop commander for all medical personnel participating in Patriot Hook.
During the exercise, external players tested and used their rapid disaster and medical response skills while crewmembers, airfield managers, aerial porters, loadmasters, aided in the movement of hundreds of tons of their equipment, and preparing cargo for deployment.
Upon arriving, the CREs when deployed, converts to a Contingency Response Element, which are comprised of aerial port, aerospace ground equipment, aircrew, communications, personnelists, command post, and enroute maintenance personnel.
Airfield Manager, Tech. Sgt. Deidra Brown, 452nd ARB said,“Patriot Hook is a complete confidence booster. Most of us don’t do this job every day, because most of us are Traditional Reservists, and have full-time jobs somewhere else, so just getting on the road; and getting that exercise experience; going to different airfields and seeing and learning; there is always something new that I take away with each one of these exercises.”
It was also responsible for assessing capability and establishing command and control, providing aircrew management, aircraft flight-following, enroute aircraft maintenance, and cargo up and down loading operations.
“This is a great basic training opportunity for my people,” said Maj. Elizabeth Dietrich, 315th AW CRE Crew commander, who managed 22 personnel positioned at Naval Air Station North Island. “I enjoy getting out here, and moving the mission and working with the affiliates, but the big thing is getting the affiliates trained. That's what we’re here for.”
Throughout the exercise, different expeditionary scenarios were conducted to encourage quick reaction skills and strengthen the proficiency when in a defense posture.
“This has been an incredible experience. We need to do more exercises like this,” said Col. Gregory Haynes, 433rd Operations Group commander, who joined the 433rd AW last year, observed his first Patriot Hook exercise. “These guys have been doing an awesome job.”
Another key benefit of this total force exercise, is to build strategic relationships, said Haynes.
“One of the advantages we had here, is for the first time, we have two medical squadrons AES and ASTS working side by side, with the same job of taking care of patients, getting them prepared to move on and actually transporting them on aircraft. What they have told me, is how invaluable it is. They have a chance to sit right next to one another and actually see how the coordination has to happen, in order for them to get that patient into the hospital, and then getting the patient back on the airplane, so they can get them out of there,” he said. “The face-to-face communication and building those relationships and the opportunities to work with all those other folks from different departments within the government, has really just been an awesome experience, and an awesome opportunity for us and our crews."