By Senior Airman Matthew Benedetti, Public Affairs, 104th Fighter Wing
/ Published December 06, 2009
BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Massachusetts -- 426 members of the wing were mobilized and all unit members played a role in a two-day deployment exercise during the November drill that was designed to prepare Airmen for the process if they and the wing's aircraft were called to active duty.
"Pax in, Pax out," became a familiar refrain to anyone who participated in the simulated deployment. The phrase was the signal for the next individual to proceed into the 'Amnesty' tent and allow the line to snake forward. Bags were packed with designated items, tagged and turned in to personnel acting as transport handlers. Participants processed through deployment stations as if leaving on a real world expedition. Legal, family and medical representatives were on hand to assure that 'deploying' personnel were squared away. Idling busses acted as departing aircraft as members boarded to a forward destination.
Airmen who participated in a 'chalk' or deployment group experienced early mornings and long days. A degree of patience was required but the process was considered efficient, thorough and well organized considering the number of airmen involved.
Lt. Col. Joseph Daley of Chalk 7 felt it was a worthwhile endeavor. "I saw a lot of the young troops learning during the exercise and stepping up. They were solving problems in their immediate areas."
A veteran of countless deployments, Daley observed, "People realize that in war time, a real world deployment is very different from the challenge presented by an inspection team. Especially, considering when an inspection team has not been here since 1998."
"We need to focus our efforts on the rules, regulations and source documents that provide the grading criteria for the upcoming inspection in 2011. It definitely served its' purpose. We showed significant improvement and people demonstrated positive attitudes. "
Identifying challenges associated with deploying is a key component of the drill. "You don't know what you don't know. This exercise helped identify what we didn't know," noted Daley.
Master Sgt Denis Brennan was in Chalk 5A. "I think things are coming into shape. We could always do better, but a few things need to be kept in mind. Since we did these Phase one's on a regular basis, the personnel turnover has been tremendous, and we're flying a different airframe," he said. "Not everyone can see the big picture and realizes how important it is to listen to their superiors and follow directions with detail in mind. With that said, things will improve, and Barnes will do well as always," said Brennan.
As the passengers were moving through the processing line, the aircraft were processing as well. This exercise was designed to evaluate the way in which our maintenance members were able to prepare the aircraft to travel overseas in support of a federal activation. The aircraft were generated, and flew a mission to simulate the trip overseas. Once the aircraft returned, the maintenance teams that went through the deployment process the day prior, simulated that they were overseas and had to accept the jets and prepare them to fly combat missions. The generation and regeneration process is orchestrated over a 48-hour period and is designed to resemble the actually strain of a real-world deployment.
At the conclusion of the four-day exercise the exercise evaluation team which grades the wings activities conducted a 2-hour out-brief; detailing what areas that went well and identifying areas that required attention. The EET identified 20 members as superior performers and assessed the functional areas against grading criteria outlined in Air Force Instructions. During this practice inspection, the wing received a less then "satisfactory" grade, but the value of this learning experience cannot be overlooked, said Col. Robert Brooks, Wing Commander. "We should be very proud of ourselves...remember, we are still a unit in conversion status, so this exercise helps us learn a great deal about ourselves as a unit. This exercise and the ones to follow will get us ready for our inspection in 2011, it will be hard work, but we will get there."
The wing will conduct another mobility and aircraft generation exercise in the spring and fall of 2010 and again in the spring of 2011 prior to their Phase I Operational Readiness Inspection.