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Contingency Response Forces team up to provide multi-agency benefited training at Fort Hunter Liggett

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Nieko Carzis
  • 146th Airlift Wing

The sun hasn't risen yet as U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeff Allen of the 146th Contingency Response Flight (146 CRF) begins to wipe the ice from the windshield of his government 4x4 truck. Allen reaches into the back of the truck and grabs his heavy backpack. It's filled beyond its capacity holding all of the gear he'll need for the rest of the week while he facilitates his role in a large readiness exercise hosted by the 621st Contingency Response Wing (621 CRW) Inspector General (IG) office at Fort Hunter Liggett.

In the weeks leading up to his arrival at Fort Hunter Liggett, Sgt. Allen and the commander of the 146 CRF, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Morgan, began coordinating with the 621 CRW IG office to find ways to leverage the needs of one another to maximize beneficial training while helping fortify the knowledge for new members inside the 146 CRF.

Together, Allen, Morgan, and the 621 CRW IG team began the framework to provide a fiscally sound approach to delivering a valuable training mission in conjunction with an evaluation exercise across the spectrum of multiple Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, and active-duty components.

Joining C-17 aircraft from Travis Air Force Base, C-130 aircraft from the 115th Airlift Squadron (115 AS), and the 152nd Airlift Wing (152 AW) provided training pallets for exercise players to unload during the LRE as well as airdrops using sandbags over the dirt runway. All of which provided the necessary air operation injects needed for the evaluation.

"There was a tiny window of time to plan and execute this training, and at times, it was very challenging to fit all the moving parts into this LRE. However, we wanted to make the scenario realistic, so we got multiple guard, reserve, and active-duty wings to participate. We are delighted we got the logistical part across the finish line and provide everyone involved with something beneficial," said Allen.

Allen grabs his large handheld radio and the rest of his protective equipment and begins walking down into a valley where multiple tents are staged. The exercise area is inside an open forest clearing. The edges of the runway are surrounded by large oak trees back dropped by large California coastal mountains silhouetting the skyline.

Between all this lies an ample dirt runway filled with multiple Contingency Response Force Elements (CRE) ground operations from the 621 CRW playing in the LRE.

A loadmaster with the 115 AS, Allen takes a knee and sorts through his gear. Helping him prepare for the day is Tech. Sgt. Joseph Ontiveros, another fellow loadmaster and member of the 146CRF. Together they begin the day by checking in with the operations tent and then get straight to work.

Allen and Ontiveros begin establishing airdrop markers for the expected aircraft to start their approach to land on the dirt field alongside the CRF teams, who evaluated the dirt airfield and established landing zones earlier in the week.

Together they exchange techniques, discuss best practices, troubleshoot gear, and share previously learned lessons within their own experiences in the CRF career field when the first airdrop scheduled arrives. At first, the C-130J aircraft looks tiny affixed in front of a deep blue empty sky above the trees. Allen and Ontiveros take turns looking through their specialty binoculars and confirm it's the first C-130 drop of the day.

Soon afterward, the C-130 piloted by Morgan landed on the dirt runway. Numerous crews playing in the LRE begin unloading and offloading the aircraft, checking necessary pre-deployment training, and demonstrating the ability to perform in a contested environment for the LRE evaluation. 

Airlift operations continue all day until the fall of the night covers the sky as the sun sets behind the peaks of the central coast mountains. Aircraft continue to land in pitch darkness to continue their air and runway operations under the cloak of night. The CR teams don their night vision goggles while the LRE continues to work into the night.

As the first day of the exercise winds down for the 146 CR teams, Allen begins to pack his equipment into his truck while Morgan, who stayed back to help observe during the LRE, prepares to head home on the last C-130J traveling back to the Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.

Morgan grabs his gear and says farewell to Allen, smiles, and then heads towards the back of the dimly lit C-130. Allen gets back in CRF 4x4 truck, visibly exhausted; he calls one of his team members to provide an end-of-day report over his phone.

During the conversation, Allen expresses gratitude for having a background in his previous career field as a loadmaster.

Allen believes that his aircrew experience has helped him adapt to his new role in the 146 CRF. In addition, he thinks it could help develop aircrew looking to broaden their perspective and enhance the CR career field as a whole.

"Being a loadmaster has helped me transition into this career field and bring both perspectives into my decision making. When I am out on a mission for the CR, I still think of how aircrew would respond to what we're providing for them and try to find the halfway point that makes life easier for us both. I think more aircrew should get some experience with CR and see how they could grow themselves and the career field,” said Allen.