By Tech. Sgt. Ryan Labadens, 403rd Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 08, 2018
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Members of the 41st Aerial Port Squadron and other Air Force, Army and Navy units refined their logistics skills Jan. 5-7 during GRIP III Breaking Barriers, a joint training exercise here and at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center – Battlefield Airman Center, Mississippi.
Reservists, Guardsmen, civilians and active-duty members from the three military branches worked side-by-side during this event, highlighting the joint effort of this training opportunity.
Members of 1108th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group, Gulfport CRTC, provided Blackhawk helicopters to ferry personnel from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, to the CRTC, simulating transportation of personnel from one forward operating base to another.
Master Sgt. Steve Martin, 41st APS ramp assistant supervisor, said the primary goal of this training was to give Reservists and other military members the opportunity to train with aircraft, personnel and equipment that they normally don’t get to encounter in their everyday training environments.
“When we deploy, we never know who we’re going to have to support. It could be an Army unit with 40 pieces of equipment that’s got to be airlifted, it could be a Navy unit coming to us that needs to be shipped out, or somebody coming in that needs to go back to the states,” said Martin. “So our guys need this kind of training to give them the chance to mimic what they might encounter downrange.”
While at the CRTC, members performed joint inspections of several vehicles, some of which included a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, light mobile tactical vehicles, high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (or Humvees), and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles. The Navy Special Boat Team 22 from John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, provided a riverine command boat, rigid inflatable boat and trailers for the APS members to practice loading and offloading as well.
While at the Gulfport CRTC, Reservists from 41st APS worked alongside Air National Guardsmen from the 186th APS, Key Field Air National Guard Base, Mississippi, on how to load and offload various vehicles on a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft from the 709th Airlift Squadron, Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. This allowed them to train jointly with other military members on these procedures, in addition to vehicle inspections, cargo sequencing, preparing the air frame for aeromedical evacuation, and various other scenarios related to the cargo and personnel this aircraft might deliver.
“My hope with this type of training is to expose them to the types of problems they might run into so that they can troubleshoot these different issues in a training environment. Then they can minimize the actual operational problems,” said Martin.
Army National Guard Master Sgt. Vernon Dedeaux, 1108th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group, helicopter mechanic supervisor, agreed with Martin, noting the importance of communication to the success of this type of training and to working together in a deployed environment.
“I think the big takeaway is – because it’s a little bit more of a laid back training environment – it’s easier to correct a mistake, to talk it out and resolve it right then and there,” said Dedeaux.
For many of the military members, this was their first time getting to work with a C-5M Super Galaxy and with many of the vehicles that were available for inspection, loading and offloading. That was the case for Senior Airman Heather Strang, 41st APS air transportation technician, who noted how beneficial this training was.
“As Reservists we don’t have a lot of hands-on experience with the bigger aircraft or loading larger equipment onto a bigger aircraft, so it’s good to get the experience here in a relaxed location so that, when you do deploy, you know what you’re doing,” said Strang.
Military members from the following units participated in the training: from the Air Force Reserve, 41st Aerial Port Squadron, and 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, both of which fall under command of the 403rd Wing at Keesler AFB, and 512th Operations Support Squadron, and the 709th Airlift Squadron from Dover AFB, Delaware; from the Mississippi Air National Guard, the Combat Readiness Training Center Air Field Manager, Transient Alert personnel, CRTC Communication personnel, CRTC AGE personnel, the 255th Air Control Squadron from the Gulfport CRTC, and 186th Logistics Readiness Squadron and 186th Aerial Port Squadron from Key Field ANG Base, Mississippi; from the Air Force, the 85th Engineering Installation Squadron at Keesler AFB; from the Navy, Special Boat Team 22 from John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, and Naval Construction Group Two from Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, Mississippi; and from the Mississippi Army National Guard, the 1108th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group, Gulfport CRTC.