Approximately 80 Airmen assigned to the 435th Contingency Response Group participated in exercise Austere Forge from Jan. 29 to Feb. 2.
The exercise tested the capability of the 435 CRG to deploy within 72 hours and included Airmen from the 435th Contingency Response Squadron, 435th Contingency Response Support Squadron and 435th Security Forces Squadron.
“We are testing out a new methodology for how we deploy as a contingency response unit,” said 1st Lt. Daniel McKeown, 435 CRS mobile aerial port flight commander. “We’re kind of like guinea pigs, feeling some of the pain and writing down notes for what works and what doesn’t.”
The first few days of the exercise were spent planning who would be sent, what kind of cargo would be used and how the cargo would be loaded. Once these plans were finalized, the Airmen went into action and loaded the equipment onto pallets.
“We all have a part to this exercise,” said Senior Airman Tomas Cubilla, 435 CRS aerial porter technician. “There’s a learning curve for working together because we all have different jobs and everyone doesn’t know the whole process. Exercises like this open our eyes to how important everybody’s job is.”
The 435 CRG worked alongside Airmen assigned to the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron and the 86th Logistics Readiness Squadron to make the exercise as real-world as possible. They coordinated with the 86 VRS for vehicle support and outprocessed through the 86 LRS’ installation deployment readiness cell. The 86 LRS also sent Airmen to inspect the weight, width and height of all the cargo.
“I think in this type of exercise where we’re actually physically moving cargo, people and processing through the IDRC, it’s a lot better than table topping it,” McKeown said. “(We’re) trying to get the base line established for the Airmen’s roles in the contingency response force.”
The third morning of the exercise found the Airmen processing through the IDRC and arriving at the simulated deployment site. There they set up tents and equipment as if in a deployed location and spent the night. The next day, they broke down the camp and simulated returning back to their home base.
“This exercise shows our capability of what we can do,” Cubilla said. “We can be sent anywhere at a moment’s notice, and it’s really something to be proud of.”
Because the exercise was simulated as little as possible, it provided an opportunity for the Airmen to experience first-hand what the process would be like in a real-world situation.
“I am a very hands-on learner,” McKeown said. “Talking about it, seeing it, hearing about it — those are totally different things. Deliberate practice will make you a hundred times better. I absolutely like these types of exercises, and I hope we continue to do them in the future.”
During exercise Austere Forge, the Airmen of the 435 CRG sharpened their skills to be able to perform their mission as smoothly as possible with very little time to prepare.