POPE ARMY AIR FIELD, N.C. —
Reserve Citizen Airmen with the 315th Airlift Wing, along with their active duty counterparts assigned to the 437th Airlift Wing and 628th Air Base Wing from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, participated in the Palmetto Challenge, May 21-23 at Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina.
Airmen trained on “real world” scenarios that could happen in a deployed environment when provided limited resources. For exercise purposes, there were two “deployed” locations, one at Pope AAF and the other at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C.
Seven C-17 Globemaster III were used during the exercise, six from JB Charleston and one from the 145th Airlift Wing, North Carolina ANG Base.
“The intent is to access our Joint Base’s ability to execute our individual mission sets in a deployed environment without the established support we have at our home base,” said Capt. Samuel Weir, 437th Operational Support Squadron and one of the exercise organizers.
Reserve Airmen tasked for the multi-day event consisted of two aircrews, including pilots and loadmasters with the 315 AW, and members of the 315th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, the only AE team participating in the exercise.
The missions for the aircrews included in-flight refueling, cargo airdrops, and to be part of six C-17 Globemaster III airdropping nearly 500 Soldiers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division and heavy cargo near Fort Bragg, N.C.
“It was great to be able to participate in such a complex exercise with actual jumpers and simulated threats while pairing with active duty,” said Lt. Col. Mike Parker, 315th Operations Support Squadron Commander and aircraft commander for one of the Reserve operated C-17s used for the exercise. “Ninety-six of the nearly 500 82nd Airborne Soldiers jumped out of our jet.”
Parker went on to say everything went very smooth for the jumpers, as did the other parts of the exercise, including the aerial refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker and multiple aircraft cargo drop over a specific landing zone (LZ). It was important to “hit their mark” when airdropping cargo and it takes extensive coordination from the pilots and loadmasters to be successful.
For the aeromedical evacuation scenario of the exercise, Airmen with the 315 AES were flown by another 315 AW Reserve aircrew on a C-17 to a semi-prepared, dirt field (simulated deployed site) to pick up patients who needed to be treated and transferred to another location.
“When the AE crew was on the flight, they didn’t know what to expect, just to be ready,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Gaines, 315 AES. “About 10 minutes out from landing, they learned the number of patients and their conditions.”
Three training mannequin patients were secured to litters and carried onto the aircraft by the 315 AES ground crew that had already began treatment of patients while on the ground. The AE members had to determine proper placement and elevation for the simulated patients based on injuries, and were then prepared for flight and treated while in the air.
“This is why we do it. This group of professionals is 100 percent prepared,” said Gaines. “We don’t want anything bad to happen but if it does, we are ready.”