Nexus Dawn: Exercise provides Reservists vital training and readiness tests in spite of pandemic

446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron

Airmen of the 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron perform in-air medical drills during Exercise Nexus Dawn at Travis Air Force Base, California, on April 27, 2021. Through exercises like Nexus Dawn, Reserve Citizen Airmen hone their readiness and effectiveness so they can support the nation with air power anytime, anywhere. (Airman 1st Class Brady Penn)


Aircrew of the 79th Air Refueling Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, California, refuel a fellow KC-10 and four F-15C Eagles from the 144th Fighter Wing in support of Exercise Nexus Dawn on April 27, 2021. The readiness exercise was designed to test the ability of multiple Air Force Reserve and California Air National Guard units to generate, employ and sustain air operations in a simulated combat environment. Missions included in the exercise are aeromedical evacuation, airlift for cargo and personnel, aerial refueling, deployment processing, aerial port operations, and command and control. Reserve Citizen Airmen from Travis, Beale, March, McChord, and McConnell Air Force Bases will participate in the exercise, as well as Air National Guardsmen from Fresno, Calif. (Senior Airman Maygan Straight)


Reserve Citizen Airmen traveled to multiple military installations in California in April to take part in their units’ first major West Coast readiness exercise since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exercise Nexus Dawn, which took place April 26-28, was designed to safely test the ability of certain Air Force Reserve units to generate, employ and sustain air operations in a simulated contested, degraded and operationally limited environment.

Planning for the readiness exercise started in May 2019. Despite the onset of the pandemic, inspections teams from the 349th Air Mobility Wing at Travis Air Force Base, California, and the 446th Airlift Wing from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, pressed forward with their plans to create a robust test of units’ combat readiness, adopting precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along the way.

“COVID-19 evolved into planning factors not just for the players but for the planners,” said Lt. Col. Gerard Guevara, director of inspections for the 349th AMW. “Avoiding the spread of the virus also became an exercise objective. Attention was given to occupancy of vehicles for transportation, numbers of players in one area at a time, work center sanitation and mask wearing at all times.”

During the exercise, Reserve Citizen Airmen were presented with a series of realistic and challenging missions, including aeromedical evacuation, airlift of cargo and personnel, aerial refueling, deployment processing, aerial port operations, and command and control.

Coordinating the exercise over the course of nearly two years, especially 2020, presented significant challenges for the primary planners who are stationed 720 miles apart. Ultimately, their commitment to a shared mission and vision, and their embrace of new technology and processes bridged the physical gap.

“Besides select site visits, planning was done remotely, which allowed opportunities to explore new communication platforms,” said Guevara. “This whole platform was built upon relationships and goodwill between wings and within them.”

Reservists from Travis and Beale Air Force Bases, as well as March Air Reserve Base, all in California, took part in the exercise. They were joined by fellow Fourth Air Force units at Lewis-McChord, McConnell AFB, Kansas, and Dover AFB, Delaware. The California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno contributed combat air forces to the scenarios, and active-duty Marines from Camp Pendleton added a joint force element.

“This exercise highlighted that our Reserve Citizen Airmen need experiences like this to get better at their jobs, and to be able to provide airpower anytime, anywhere,” said Guevara. “And we owe that to them and the American public, despite limitations of this pandemic.” #ReserveReady

(Green is assigned to the 349th AMW public affairs office.)      ■