Total force exercise sharpens combat-ready skills

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kristian Carter
  • 433rd Airlift Wing

433rd Airlift Wing aerial porters, defenders, and medical personnel joined the 502nd Air Base Wing defenders, the San Antonio Military Medical Center doctors, and helicopter crews from Texas Army National Guard, 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment in a training exercise, Operation Dust Storm, Feb. 1 at Martindale Army Air Field, Texas.

These joint, total-force training events are created and designed to be beneficial for all parties.

“Ground teams train to conduct their aviation-related tasks in a focused manner, and not be distracted by the newness or disorientation of operating with military aircraft,” said Col. Kjäll Gopaul, Air Education and Training Command mission pathfinder.

“For the aircrews, we increase the realism of training by providing train-as-we-fight ground teams for the tactical passenger/casualty movement, patient transfer, sling load hook-ups, pick-up zone command and control with a pathfinder team using tactical radios, signaling smoke, touchdown point markings, and extensive pre-mission planning,” he said.

“For JBSA, it may very well be the most complex airborne mission in recent memory, involving diverse aircraft from two different installations, conducting tactical passenger movement, transport of casualties across two geographically separated landing zones, live-aircraft patient transfer of litter and ambulatory casualties, simultaneous sling loading on a single landing zone with two different aircraft using three different cargo loads, joint, total-force personnel, and incorporation of airborne combat camera documentation,” said Gopaul, who has been conducting these training events his entire career.

The first event of the day, was an Army Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter transporting simulated patients and an ambulance from Kelly Field at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas to Martindale. Once the aircraft arrived, a medical team went to the helicopter to practice transporting patients on a litter to and from a running aircraft.

“We’re here today training in a joint environment, learning how to load and unload injured patients from Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters, and how to triage patients to get them to care in a safe and effective manner,” said Army Maj. Allyson Cochet, San Antonio Military Medical Center gastroenterologist. “This what we do in a deployed environment. We take care of service members and learning how to move them quickly to the level of care they need is critical. That’s how we save them if they need care quickly.”

The Chinook then returned to Kelly Field to pick up additional personnel.

The 26th and 74th Aerial Port Squadron’s air transportation specialists work as the ground crew, practice  hooking-up, sling-load packages, while an Army Guard UH-60 Blackhawk crew practiced retrieving and delivering the loads.

“We practice how to build and rig pallets for sling-loading,” said Staff Sgt. Raul Romero, 26th APS, air transportation specialist. “We had different members doing different tasks such as hooking onto the helicopter and members re-tying the break-away ties. I’ve learned that teamwork is essential, especially when it comes to the types of exercises like these, it’s essential for you to execute the mission.”

When the Chinook returned, it dropped-off a group of Reserve and active-duty defenders. The helicopter crew also practiced picking-up a sling loaded Humvee.