Hollywood Guard Fortifies ACE Element Training at Fort Hunter-Ligget Published Sept. 22, 2023 By Maj. Andrei Mostovoj 146th Airlift Wing FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. -- The 146th Airlift Wing (146 AW) participated in a Readiness Exercise (RE) at Schoonover Airfield near Fort Hunter Liggett, California, Sept. 5-9, 2023, during a multi-day exercise called Crisis Beach II, allowing participants the opportunity to perform duties outside of their Air Force careers and demonstrate their ability to execute the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) model, highlighting their proactive and reactive operational strategies under simulated threat timelines to increase survivability while generating combat power. Simultaneously delivering airlift support for Grizzly Flag, another California Military Department exercise showcasing the ability of Airmen from all five California Air National Guard bases producing Agile Combat Employment at an austere location on San Clemente Island, the 146 AW unwaveringly prevailed during an inspection on their ability to perform their core functions: cargo and equipment delivery, managing cargo and equipment yards, palletization of cargo, airdrops, and examination loading vehicles onto military aircraft. During this time, a team of over 200 exercise participants and real-world support personnel were airlifted to Schoonover Airfield, where the Wing Inspection Team (146 WIT) evaluated their simulated contingency operations in a contested environment with limited resources. Providing personnel support for contingency operations services (PERSCO) and transportation services to the exercise players throughout the four-day duration, the 146th Force Support Squadron and the 146th Grounds Transportation Element delivered vital support throughout the exercise. On loan from the 129th Rescue Wing’s Civil Engineer Squadron, tents were provided with assistance and logistic support from Chief Master Sgt. Donald Simmons and Master Sgt. Michael Ucol, both assigned from the 129th Rescue Wing. While the logistical planning for this exercise had been in the works for several years, the evaluation at Fort Hunter Liggett finally came to fruition with Lt. Col. Todd Morgan, Commander of the 146th Contingency Response Flight (146 CRF), leading the overall operations. As the Commander, Morgan’s 146 CRF established all the airfields utilized at Fort Hunter Liggett and ensured that upon their arrival and within the same day, they’d have the airport up and running and ready to receive aircraft for missions. With the 146 CRF delivering contingency response (CR) functions for the exercise, the 146 AW leaned heavily on its own 146th Civil Engineer Squadron (146 CES) for infrastructure support like assembling tents and lighting. One of the 146 CES personnel who arrived at the spoke a day before the start of the exercise was Master Sgt. Scott Luebke. Luebke’s primary duty is that of an electrician tasked with establishing power generators and light carts for nighttime operations. However, he and his team of nine were tasked with constructing the large tents and the infrastructure needed to support the exercise. Luebke says his team had the opportunity to broaden their skill sets by learning other critical support functions to aid the exercise while reinforcing practical problem-solving dexterities within his group. “For many of them, this is our first time establishing a tent city from the ground up. All nine members we brought installed all of the air conditioning and heating units here. While most of us have deployed and have been in charge of managing a tent city, we got the chance to establish one from nothing, and that has been a tremendous learning experience,” said Luebke. In addition to Civil Engineering, another integral component of the exercise was the ability for members to communicate with each other and track flight status and cargo movement. This process was made possible through the 146th Communications Flight (146 CF). Airman 1st Class Kelly Chung, a recently graduated technical school student on her first field exercise, says she enjoyed her first opportunity to use her skills to jump right into the exercise. “This has been an outstanding opportunity for me to perform my job under real-world conditions. The injects that the evaluators throw at us keep us on our toes and help us learn to adapt and respond to different emergencies. I study electrical engineering on the outside, and I joined the Air Force to gain some real-world experience, and exercises such as this one certainly has provided that,” said Chung. Chung added that this type of field training helps bolster the mission and helps Airmen learn to work effectively with the people they only serve part-time with. “This exercise has served as a bonding experience between myself and the people in my shop. I’m learning to do my job more effectively and with the people I serve with at the 146th,” said Chung. Beyond the players’ experience during the exercise, the real-world component for evaluating and examining the exercise players also took place in the form of the 146th Inspector General’s (146 IG) team. Maj. Jonathan Fruit, recently appointed as the 146th AW Inspector General, managing the Wing Inspection Team, leading a 20-member team to evaluate the 146 AW, says that he is significantly impressed, particularly by the attitudes and drive of the Airmen participating. “We are here to evaluate the safety of our members, ensure they are following Air Force regulations, and learn what we can do to improve how we operate. During that time, we also see how they respond mentally during those injects, and I am pleased to see our Airmen’s resolve,” said Fruit. Tennant units from Fort Hunter Liggett’s 356th Logistical Support Battalion, in conjunction with aircrew members assigned to the 115th Airlift Squadron, began loading their Humvees onto the 146 AW’s flagship aircraft, the C-130J Super Hercules. During airborne jump training, the U.S. Army’s 346th Theatre Aerial Delivery Company (Airborne) also parachuted from the 146 AW C-130J aircraft flying over Fort Hunter Liggett. Closing out the final training day in the late afternoon at the historic Mission San Antonio de Padua on Fort Hunter-Liggett, U.S. Air National Guard Chaplain Maj. Aaron Bayles, assigned to the 146th Airlift Wing Chaplains Corps, gathered a congregation from the exercise and performed evening catholic mass. Bayles used the opportunity to remind the service members in attendance to use this exercise to grow and become better Airmen. “We must take this time to be able to learn from our mistakes and remember the importance of counseling members in a manner that is both constructive and appropriate so that they may develop into better leaders,” said Bayles. As the final day of the exercise came, Lt. Col. Morgan and the 146 CRF would shut the airfield down for airlift operations to travel back to the 146 AW. Morgan says while most contingency response elements are known for establishing airfields, many lesser-known additional commitments also fall to CR during contingencies. “CR is a bridge between the seizing force and an occupying force. In combat environments, Army or Marine units can capture an enemy airfield. Then, it is up to CR units to arrive within a certain timeframe and ensure that the airfield is cleared and ready to accept aircraft and cargo. In addition to establishing airfields, one of the other important missions often overlooked is the closing down of airfields after operations have ended. Planes cannot depart from unsecured locations, and CR units are used to close down military operations officially,” said Morgan. Morgan says the exercise was a success overall, highlighting the wing’s resiliency to overcome the inspection injections and the knowledge gained from working in the austere environment Schoonover Airfield provided. “I think this was a great learning experience. We are getting the opportunity to teach our Airmen a new method of fighting and how to execute the mission. We came out here to see how our Airmen could operate in an environment they aren’t used to, in an unfamiliar area, without your whole team, and they successfully handled multiple jobs outside their normal purview,” said Morgan. “We’re not looking through that soda straw hole world anymore. Our Airmen are expected to be subject matter experts in their career field while becoming a 2.5 skill level in every AFSC around them. That is what has created the success of this exercise during our time out here,” said Morgan.