TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. –
Nearly 1.6 million people are still trying to get their bearing after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake ravaged Southeast Asia June 17.
Collapsed buildings. Impassable bridges. Compromised water. Looting. Chaos hit the border of North and South Torbia.
After a request for assistance from South Torbia, U.S. Transportation Command calls upon its premier response forces: 621st Contingency Response Wing, 689th Rapid Port Opening Element and the Defense Logistics Agency’s Rapid Deployment Team-Blue.
Don’t worry, you didn’t miss this on the news. This was the exercise scenario for Turbo Distribution 19-03, held July 18-24, 2019, at Contingency Operating Base Panther in North Vernon, Indiana.
In this joint training exercise, approximately 125 Airmen from the CRW teamed up with about 50 RPOE Soldiers and five DLA members to conduct a Joint Task Force-Port Opening in order to bring humanitarian aid and disaster relief to the people of the fictional country of South Torbia.
“Conducting HADR operations is one of the most important missions we do,” said Col. Greg Cyrus, the 621st Contingency Response Group commander and the JTF-PO commander for TD 19-03. “Preventing further suffering and loss of life is an enduring value of the United States and the contingency response groups are standing ready to assist when requested.”
USTRANSCOM regularly exercises JTF-PO capabilities to ensure a trained, ready, joint team can rapidly assess, deploy, open, operate, and manage aerial and sea ports. JTF-PO supports synchronized cargo and passenger movement. The objective is to clear the port early in the humanitarian crisis and receive and stage cargo for onward movement.
Turbo Distribution exercises are specifically designed to train and assess JTF-PO capabilities. The exercises also is intended to build familiarity and improve interoperability among the participating Joint Force. units for the purpose of opening airfields and forwarding the mobility-centric goals of the Army and Air Force.
The Airmen, consisting mainly of the 921st Contingency Response Squadron, practiced mission stand up, command and control, conducting airfield operations and cargo processing as they strived to sharpen their skills of providing humanitarian relief.
Soldiers and Airmen worked at least 12-hour shifts, performing these tasks throughout the exercise on a 24-hour rotation.
The JTF-PO team delivered more than 285,000 pounds of humanitarian relief to include food, water, blankets, cots, health and medical supplies, generators and fuel over the course of seven days.
“We rely on each other to make sure this mission gets done,” said Army Capt. JaLyssa Walker, 689th RPOE commander. “The Air Force flies the supplies in and preps it, and we track it and transport it to the forward node, where the customer can retrieve it.”
In this case, the “customer” can be military drivers picking up supplies for the other military installations in the region or it can be designated drivers picking up the supplies for the refugee camps throughout the south portion of South Torbia.
The concept may seem straight forward, but a variety of scenarios were presented to the team to ensure they were prepared for the unexpected. Some of the scenarios included simulated chemical and ground-force attacks, loss of communications systems, protesters at the COB main gate, and improvised explosive devices along the primary route to the forward node.
The JTF-PO commander acknowledged focus areas and understands the value of this training.
“We weren’t perfect, but we learned what areas we can improve on,” said Cyrus. “It’s important that we learn these critical lessons now so we don’t make them when lives are on the line.”
Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center website.