MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Florida --
Four contingency response units participated in Exercise Patriot Sands Feb. 24-28 at multiple locations in Florida to refine their contingency response capabilities.
Patriot Sands is an annual Air Force Reserve Command exercise for contingency response squadrons and affiliate units to train on deploying within 72 hours of a tasking. The purpose of the joint exercise was to increase readiness and interoperability.
During the exercise, Reserve Citizen Airmen with the 315th, 433rd, 439th, and 512th airlift wings' contingency response units trained with each other and other organizations with the U.S. Coast Guard, Army and Air National guards, the FBI and other affiliate units to simulate the rapid movement of cargo and supplies on and off air mobility aircraft.
“We came to MacDill (AFB) and exercised as if we were going to a real-world location, where a typhoon hit an island and left locals without power and other resources,” said Maj. Zachary Walrond, 512th CRS operations officer. “We had multiple aircraft from Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina and Texas bring in supplies that were loaded onto the aircraft, and we set up a mobile command center that allowed us to communicate with the air and ground crews.”
“Everything we did at Patriot Sands applied to real-world scenarios,” said Maj. Michael Arnold, 512th CRS assistant director of operations and one of AFRC’s lead planners for Patriot Sands 2021. “Our units were set up exactly how they would be if they were deployed.”
During the five-day exercise, loadmasters practiced loading unfamiliar cargo and equipment into C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, pilots flew the cargo to nearby airfields to simulate actual drop offs, and affiliate units learned how to integrate their capabilities into Air Force Reserve contingency response operations.
In addition to working alongside other CR units, Walrond said other 512th AW units contributed to the success of the exercise. These units included the 709th and 326th airlift squadrons, the 512th Logistic Readiness Squadron, the 512th Operations Support Squadron and the 71st Aerial Port Squadron.
“Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to execute the mission,” said Walrond. “As a contingency response squadron, we don’t have some of their skillsets embedded in our team.”
Members of the 512th Inspector General Inspections Office also observed the exercise to provide valuable feedback.
“We’re here making sure we’re exercising relevance and realism, and making sure our people are getting value-added experience, so we can validate readiness,” said Master Sgt. Erin Esquer, 512th AW exercise planner. “Readiness is the big picture.”
Lt. Col. Anita West-Werner, the commander of the 512th CRS, explained how important exercises are for a reserve unit’s readiness.
“Unlike active-duty Airmen, who get 365 days a year to show they’re capable of doing their mission, we get 24 to 40 days to do the exact same job,” she said. “Patriot Sands demonstrates how AFRC continues to prepare Reserve Citizen Airmen for the greater call.
“We are training the war fighter. We are training nongovernmental and governmental agencies, and this exercise is helping each of them better serve the U.S. Air Force and have global mobility and impact.”