KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Reserve Citizen Airmen assigned to the 403rd Wing’s 815th Airlift Squadron, Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, sharpened their own skills while providing airlift and airdrop support for the active-duty Air Force’s 621st Air Mobility Advisory Group during Exercise Voyager Shield at the U.S. Army Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana, in May.
The 621st AMAG is part of the 621st Contingency Response Wing, a rapid response expeditionary wing based out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
“Our role during Voyager Shield was to provide the majority of the airlift support to meet the training needs of the 621st AMAG, which actually helped us meet some of the training objectives we can’t get during our normal daily training missions,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Weiher, 815th AS assistant director of operations.
Among those training objectives was practicing communicating with landing zone and drop zone controllers via secure communications. The controllers are Air Mobility Liaison Officers – Air Force-rated pilots and navigators integrated with Army and Marine units who act as liaisons between ground forces and air forces. The AMLOs translate the Army and Marine requirements to Air Force speak and back.
“One part of our job as liaisons between air and ground units is to control LZs (landing zones) and DZs (drop zones) for the ground units in fairly austere locations,” said Maj. Andrew Wagner, 621st Mobility Support Operations Squadron AMLO. “And we can’t do that without having aircraft, so having the 815th come here helps us with our training.”
The exercise also allowed Reservists from the 815th AS, better known as the Flying Jennies, to practice loadmaster-specific training, including personnel drops and rolling cargo training.
The loadmasters loaded two Humvees, provided by the 46th Engineering Battalion, Forward Support Company at JRTC and Fort Polk.
The Jennies then flew to the Geronimo LZ to do austere environment training so they can be ready for deployment and safely complete a quick onload/offload of cargo before the aircraft has to take off again.
Once on the ground at the landing zone, with the C-130J Super Hercules engines still running, the loadmasters directed Humvee drivers Army Specialist Tyler Rempert and Private First Class Jonathan Havens out of the aircraft and then loaded one Humvee back onto the aircraft for a few assault landings.
In all, the 815th AS provided about 60% of the airlift support for the exercise.
“With the 815th AS coming in here, it facilitated all of our LZ and DZ work,” said Capt. Drew Sumner, 621st MSOS AMLO. “Without the Hercs, this would have been a much smaller and less impactful exercise.”
“For AMLOs, this training is especially useful, because normally I would have to be deployed to get this many repetitions with landings at one time,” Wagner said. “Thanks to the aircrews who are so willing to come out here for extended periods of time, it helps us get the extra training we need to prepare for deployment.”
During the exercise, the Flying Jennies also had the opportunity to practice engine-running onload and offload of aeromedical evacuation-simulated patients from both a vehicle and a smaller aircraft, in this case a C-208 Caravan.
“Being fairly close, this exercise gave us the opportunity to conduct different training we normally don’t see,” Weiher said. “And it was not one where we had to actually deploy the unit to participate. We could fly from home station, get the training and return.”#ReserveReady
(Kendziorek is assigned to the 403rd Wing’s public affairs office.) ■