More than 500 Airmen, Soldiers, Coast Guardsmen, FBI personnel and Florida International University-Florida Advanced Surgical Transport, or FIU-FAST, team volunteers trained together during the contingency response exercise, Patriot Sands, Feb. 20-23.
Contingency-response personnel from around the globe teamed up on the east Florida coast to refine their emergency-response capabilities during the exercise training on a host of different aircraft platforms including the C-17 Globemaster III, C-5M Super Galaxy, KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 Hercules, Army HH-60 Pave Hawk and Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin.
“Patriot Sands is an annual exercise where we as contingency response reserve forces train with Department of Defense and non-DoD assets,” said Lt. Col. Greg Ulrich, Contingency Response Element exercise commander. “We’re working with the FAST (Florida Advanced Surgical Transport) team, the Coast Guard and some other assets, providing them training on how to use air-mobility assets when they need to move around to respond to a contingency.”
Contingency response units, along with their federal government and local affiliates, set up a base to establish airflow from the ground up, as they would in a real-world, emergency-relief situation.
“We must be able to hit the ground running so we can establish communication with airflow immediately,” said Master Sgt. Gary Lamb, 315th Contingency Response Flight command post specialist. “Within an hour of landing, CR units need to be able to establish communication with aircraft and other bases in addition to building a self-sufficient terminal operations center that provides an essential information hub.”
Each CR unit brings different techniques to emergency response.
“There is a lot that active-duty CR units can learn from the guard and reserve since they are seasoned experts in their fields,” said Maj. Kyle Sultemeir, 435th Contingency Response Response Group assistant director of operations at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “They are able to remain in their respective units 10 or more years, whereas active duty only have about three years in the CR community at a time.”
Other non-DoD team members require this training in hopes of building their readiness and qualifying as a team for other important designations to operate, such as the FIU-FAST (Florida International University-Florida Advanced Surgical Transport) team that hopes to use these skills to qualify as a World Health Organization team in the future.
“Missions like Patriot Sands are essential for us to practice with our civil-military partnerships,” said Bridget Pelaez, FIU-FAST team director. “This helps us work together seamlessly in the case of a real-world natural disaster response situation.”
Pelaez led a team of FIU volunteer medical professionals from logistics specialists, who can assemble a decontamination unit in only four minutes, to surgeons, who respond to emergency situations such as hurricane or earthquake relief.
Airmen from the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron assisted the FIU-FAST team with mock patients transported from helicopters and cargo jets.
“The best benefit was working with the FAST team,” said Capt. Sara Masters, 315th AES medical crew director. “They offered a lot of critical-care training and we assisted their team of nurses, medical technicians and doctors.”
The 315th Contingency Response Flight coordinated the exercise, guided with a purpose to maintain seamless techniques in air transportation movement, with Air Mobility Command and DoD assets, from medical response to communications support.
There were also National Guard and active-duty CR units from nine states and two continents, who were a part of the exercise to build strong partnerships as well.
“These exercises allow us to strengthen our skills with logistical assets as well as our interoperability in a mixed-team environment,” said Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Hall, Florida Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear and Explosive – Enhanced Response Force Package unit chemical biological radiological nuclear and high-yield explosive enhanced response force package technician.
The variety of cargo, aircraft and Airmen brought this unique exercise to life. Each partner brought their unique skills to the exercise. Teams set up a mobile command center in less than an hour, transported almost 500,000 pounds of cargo and approximately 200 passengers.
Many real-world skills were also practiced and strengthened.
After marshalling a C-130 for the first time, Staff Sgt. Waneisha Aull, 81st Aerial Port Squadron aerial porter said, “It was exciting to have the opportunity to work with a variety of unique aircraft and talented people from across the DoD that I may have only encountered on a deployment.”
“This has greatly strengthened our team by exposing them to real-world disaster scenarios and learning from our partners,” Ulrich said. “Now we are better prepared for working hand-in-hand with our partners when the CR community is called to duty.”