Story and photos by Senior Airman John R. Wright
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs April 16, 2021
CHIÈVRES AIR BASE, Belgium — A team of multi-capable Airmen (MCA) from Ramstein Air Base exercised skillsets outside their career fields to support airdrop operations during a training at Chièvres Air Base, Belgium, March 29.
The training was part of the 86th Airlift Wing’s new Cross-Functional Airlift Support Personnel (CASPER) program, created to enable Agile Combat Employment operations at Ramstein.
“CASPER, or any implementation of MCA, is critical in ensuring any wing mission set can forward deploy or mobilize, as required, with the minimum amount of personnel and resources, while still delivering desired effects to the respective combatant commander,” said Maj. Jon Cordell, 86th Operations Support Squadron assistant director of operations.
The team used skills they’ve learned in the CASPER program to coordinate airdrops, recover cargo with adverse terrain 10K forklifts, perform combat offloads and load cargo for return to Ramstein.
“Today the team is receiving drop zone control officer training and landing zone safety officer training,” Cordell said. “The team is learning how to posture a forward operating base for aerial resupply and air-land resupply.”
Made up of three intelligence Airmen, one weather Airman and one dual-rated Ground Controlled Approach and Air Traffic Control Airman, the MCA team was selected for CASPER after members submitted nomination packages and met with an interview panel.
“As a result of the program, we will have personnel from various career fields all able to support a port operation and organically resupply a FOB,” Cordell said. “Where we were usually reliant on aircrew and various personnel in place at different destinations, we can now bring a small group of CASPER Airmen and completely self-sustain for a given number of days before needing more specialized support.”
While the cross-functional aspect of the training covered calling in airdrops to an active drop zone and immediately transitioning to landing zone operations, CASPER Airmen were still expected to perform their primary duties.
“Before the crews take off, we are giving them intel and weather briefs for a scenario that we created,” said 1st Lt. Bridgett Wall, 86th OSS intelligence officer. “We’re testing out how well we can still support on our primary job, while still being able to support in other respects outside of our usual daily ops, which in this case has been drop zone controller, landing zone safety officer and combat offload method-B.”
The initial class of Airmen selected for CASPER trained in a total of 20 events over a 30-day training period.
“Up to this point we’ve had a lot of static training events and classroom instruction,” Cordell said. “Seeing their hard work all come together to support an operation like this is not only a lot of fun, but validates a lot of the training they’ve undergone.”
After declaring initial operational capability, the CASPER program is slated to open up to more Airmen from across the wing and installation.
“The training that we’ve gotten has definitely applied to what we’re doing here at Chièvres in almost a culmination-like capstone,” Wall said. “The team has formed into a pretty tight-knit group. We all work well together. We all have our strengths and weaknesses based on our prior experience. Seeing that all come together is really cool, and I’m happy to be part of it.”