Tech. Sgt. Jan Ahner, left, along with Staff Sgt. Frederick King, center, and Airman 1st Class Eric Aranquiz, all with the 108th Contingency Response Group, prepare to unload a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft during Eagle Flag 12-4 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on August 15, 2012.
Combat Arms Staff Sgt. Lawrence Aiello performs a function check on a M2 Browning machine gun while guarding the perimeter.
When August rolls around in the training calendar for the New Jersey Air National Guard, Airmen from the 108th Contingency Response Group know exactly what to expect. They know they need to put on their game-face and tackle the exercise they have been participating at for the past three years: Eagle Flag.
They've done this before, so they knew this year's exercise would be held at the Lakehurst side of Joint Base McGuire-Dix- Lakehurst and would run from Aug. 16 – 20. It is five days of 24-hours operations.
As one of only two CRG groups in the Air National Guard – the other is in Kentucky – the 108th CRG is a rapid-deployment unit designed at the initiative of Air Force leadership to be a first-in force that will secure an airfield, establish and maintain field operations. They are tailored for a specific mission and incorporate more than 20 military specialties, which comprises of approximately a 120-person unit ready for deployment around the globe with no more than 12 hours notice.
"I would take this group and this RPOE and deploy anywhere in the world, and I know you would do the mission with 100 percent success."
Col. Robert Brazel, commander, 108th Contingency Response Group
Aerospace maintenance journeyman Tech. Sgt. John Whittaker cinches
a strap on a cargo container.
Command post craftsman Staff Sgt. Darnell Carter, right, updates the
events log during the night shift.
Consequently, attending Eagle Flag is quite important for a CRG, as the purpose of Eagle Flag is to train the Airmen of CRGs to become fully operational capable in order to deploy into a foreign country or anywhere within the continental United States and join other personnel and elements to comprise a United States Air Force expeditionary group.
Once at the location, the expeditionary group will be tasked with a mission to open an air base and conduct air operations. After the expeditionary base is open and functional; the groups' mission can be in of support humanitarian, disaster relief, or combat operations.
At this year's exercise, the Airmen from the 108th CRG and approximately 25 Soldiers from the 689th Rapid Port Opening Element, Fort Eustis, Va., were tasked with operating a joint task force port opening (JTF-PO) that would support humanitarian relief efforts at a poor fictional country named "Nessor".
This task was accomplished by having the Air Force as sets provide air mobility expertise such as setting up the base and receiving air cargo, while the Army's assets transport the much needed cargo to a pre-determined forward node for further distribution. Operating as a joint force, both the Airmen and the Soldiers are evaluated on how well they work together during the operations.
And worked well together they did.
"From my group, I really saw the synergy and the effort to come together with the RPOE," said Col. Robert Brazel, commander of the 108th CRG, as well as the commander of the JTF-PO during the exercise. "We've been with the RPOE for the third time out; my hat is off to you."
"I would take this group and this RPOE and deploy anywhere in the world, and I know you would do the mission with 100 percent success," said Brazel as the exercise culminated and the Airmen prepared to return to home base and begin the training process all over again for next year's Eagle Flag.
Air transport craftsman Tech. Sgt. Michael George performs an accountability
|With the aid of two green glowsticks, Tech. Sgt. Jan Ahner directs a
10K all-terrain forklift in picking up cargo.