Andrews Airmen participate in Total Force exercise

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Steve Lewis
  • 459th air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: this story accompanies a recent news story regarding Ability to Survive and Operate and readiness training the 459 ARW participated in prior to the 2011 February Unit Training Assembly

It all started with an exercise recall of over 1200 459th Air Refueling Wing Reserve Airmen on a Tuesday morning in February. Their orders had them reporting here for a combined three-day training exercise called Vantage Rally/Tiger Claw 11-01.

With chemical warfare suits, gas masks and Airman's Manuals in hand, 459 ARW servicemembers arrived at the base, ready for the multi-day training. Vantage Rally/Tiger Claw 11-01 included classroom instruction and several exercises that were focused on preparing Airmen here for an upcoming Operational Readiness Inspection.

While training courses like Self Aid and Buddy Care and Contamination Avoidance were taking place in hangars here, a mobilization and a Nuclear Operational Readiness Exercise was simultaneously in full swing.

The NORE portion, which took place in the very beginning of the three-day training, evaluated the wing's ability to generate KC-135 Stratotankers to provide fuel to bomber and fighter aircraft during contingency operations.

Following the NORE, the mobilization exercise began, which involved the help and coordination of Airmen from the active-duty 11th Wing and the 89th Wing here. Several elements, including preparing cargo for flight, issuing mobility gear and processing passengers through a deployment line, were included in the mobility exercise.

In real-world scenarios, 11 WG and the 89 WG squadrons augment the 459 ARW by providing facilities, personnel and equipment necessary for processing cargo and passengers for deployments.

During this particular mobility exercise, cargo and pallets were prepared for flight through in-depth inspections by the active-duty LRS Airmen. Utilizing safety checklists and high-tech scales, the Airmen reviewed every piece of equipment and certified them for airworthiness. The inspections also provided 459 ARW Reserve servicemembers with valuable training. Items like the proper tying down of pallets and equipment storage were reviewed with the Reserve Airmen by the active-duty logistics specialists.

Maj. Tara Parker, 11th Logistics Readiness Squadron operations officer, oversaw the active-duty LRS Airmen during the cargo inspections. In the past, her squadron has been involved with ensuring the 459 ARW personnel and equipment properly departs for large-scale deployments.

"We love the opportunity to work with our mission partners in guaranteeing successful deployment operations," Major Parker said.

After all the cargo and equipment were prepared and inspected for flight, the mobility exercise then shifted gears to processing passengers through a deployment line.

Over 165 459 ARW Airmen with mobility folders in hand boarded busses and headed over to the Deployment Control Center. Various stations were set up at the DCC, which were manned by both active-duty and Reserve personnel. As the deploying Airmen visited each station, mobility folders were reviewed for discrepancies and information was briefed. Like the cargo inspection portion of a large-scale deployment, the active-duty also supports the 459 ARW when passengers are processed through the DCC here.

Capt. Laura Wagner, 459 ARW  deployment officer, oversaw the cargo and passenger processing portion of Vantage Rally/Tiger Claw 11-01. She worked with many different functional areas, including the 11 WG Installation Deployment Readiness Cell, to execute the mobility exercise.

"I work very closely with our counterparts at the IDRC to ensure things go smoothly between the planning and execution phase of deployment processing," Captain Wagner said. "They really go above and beyond to provide as much support as they're capable of giving us."

With the cargo and passenger portions of the exercise complete, the 459 ARW transitioned into a full scale readiness exercise. Many of the Airmen who attended the two days worth of classroom instruction and Airman's Manual familiarization had the opportunity to put into practice what they had learned.

Throughout the readiness exercise, different alarm levels were announced, which caused 459 ARW Airmen to don gas masks and Chemical Protection Overgarments. While in the full Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear, some of the Airmen were organized into special teams to search for and cordon off Unexploded Ordinance after a simulated missile attack.

As the readiness exercise came to a close, Airmen packed up their CPOs and stowed their manuals. Alarm levels returned to green and MOPP levels went down to zero, allowing the Airmen to review the scenarios they were presented with throughout the day.

Lt. Col. Dana Nelson, 756th Air Refueling Squadron Exercise and Evaluation Team and Operational Readiness Inspection planner, managed Vantage Rally/Tiger Claw 11-01. She and other 459 ARW team members spent many hours of planning to ensure the exercise prepared the wing for the upcoming ORI.

"I thought this exercise went well considering the extensive amount of training that we put into the three days, which we've never done before," Colonel Nelson said. "The amount of time that our civilians and Air Reserve Technician took out of their day to plan for this exercise was astronomical. All of the work that went into pulling off the three days and for it to go as well as it did was simply incredible."

The next step in preparing for the 2012 ORI is for 459 ARW personnel to attend specialized training this summer at Volk Field, Wisconsin. They will work alongside their future ORI partners, the 161th Air Refueling Wing, during the training.

As more time is spent over this year's Unit Training Assemblies conducting exercises, the 459 ARW will continue to prepare for the ORI. Gas masks will be inspected, CPOs will be donned and Airman's Manuals will be studied, all in preparation for a successful inspection.