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Exercise Palmetto Challenge: readiness, rapid mobility

By Senior Airman Joshua Maund | Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs | May 28, 2019

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. —

More than 200 Airmen from Joint Base Charleston participated in the Palmetto Challenge mobilization exercise to conduct operations from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, and Pope Army Airfield, S.C., May 17-23, 2019.

The purpose of the exercise was to develop and maintain full-spectrum readiness and ensure JB Charleston’s forces are equipped and trained to conduct rapid global mobility operations in support of Air Mobility Command and DOD priorities.

“We have to be able to prepare, mobilize and deploy our forces on a large scale to respond anywhere in the world,” said Col. Bobby DeGregorio, 315th Airlift Wing Mission Support Group commander and a senior Palmetto Challenge leader. “For the past two decades, we’ve been fighting unconventional enemies, now, we are shifting posture to emphasize that mobility is more than just moving cargo, it means moving the mission and projecting air power.”

JB Charleston capitalized on its total force capabilities by combining 628th Air Base Wing, 437th Airlift Wing and 315th Airlift Wing personnel for the simulated deployment. The exercise called for the mobilization and employment of Airmen and the logistics they use to accomplish their duties in contested environments.

“We execute every mission to the best of our abilities,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Stiles, a command post controller assigned to the 628th ABW. “Building and strengthening the relationship between mission partners is important as well as continuing to grow and learn in a high-threat environment together.”

Airmen were tasked and graded on a multitude of scenarios that required communication and cooperation between explosive ordinance disposal, security forces, command post, emergency management and other essential units. The scenarios enabled senior leaders and subject matter experts to observe the collaboration in action and analyze ways to maximize mission effectiveness.

“I’ve gained a further understanding of the importance of communication,” said Senior Airman Myles Shepard, an aerial porter who augmented as a crisis action team administrator during the exercise. “I witnessed firsthand, how vital information comes from the highest of ranking officers to the lowest tier of Airmen.”

To make the training as realistic as possible, participants from across JB Charleston received equipment, weapons and specialty uniform items similar to what they would use during real-world operations. For example, Airmen utilized Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear to protect against chemical and biological attacks and the single pallet expeditionary kitchen, which can be used to feed the force in deployed locations.

After observing his people in action, Degregorio said he was impressed with what he saw and he commended the Airmen for executing their mission with an amazing attitude.

“Their overall improvement from day one to day three was outstanding,” he said. “The fact that the [team] came together and performed at the level that they did is a win in and of itself.”