by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Hannen
621st Contingency Response Wing
10/2/2015 - COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Contingency
response Airmen from the 821st Contingency Response Group recently
planned, directed and executed the largest self-contained contingency
response exercise in Air Force history from Sept. 8-19.
Approximately 150 Airmen from the 821st CRG at Travis Air Force Base,
Calif., subordinate unit of the 621st Contingency Response Wing--with
bicoastal units located at Travis AFB and Joint Base
McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst AFB, N.J.--conducted Exercise Cerberus Strike, a
joint contingency response exercise operating out of five locations in
California and Colorado. This unique exercise, whose name was derived
from the mascot of the lead squadron, was hosted by the 821st CRG,
supported by Air Mobility Liaison Officers, and executed alongside
aircrews from three different airframes, demonstrated the spectrum of CR
capabilities that make up Air Mobility Command's airlift support
One of the core capabilities of the 621st CRW is enhancing and extending
the nation's global enroute architecture in order to rapidly respond to
crises and contingencies. In order to better serve that function,
Airmen from the 621st CRW used Exercise Cerberus Strike to hone their
skills and reaffirm their interoperability with joint counterparts.
According to Capt. Michael Slaughter, 821st Contingency Response
Squadron assistant director of operations, the CR training was initially
constructed to develop unique CR-oriented training objectives that
improve downrange effectiveness in preparation for real-world responses.
It focused on key functions required by the warfighter such as landing
zone assessment, airbase opening for intermediate and forward staging
base operations, integrated force protection, and rapid deployment and
redeployment of CR and Army forces through strategic and tactical
airlift. In fact the training became significantly more substantial, as
CR Airmen, AMLOs, aircrew, and Soldiers planned and executed alongside
To accomplish this training, exercise planners in the 821st CRG
recruited a large number of Air Force and joint partners. Air Force
participants in the exercise included strategic airlift support via C-17
Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy squadrons from the 4th Airlift Squadron
from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; 21st AS and 22nd AS, Travis AFB,
Calif. Tactical airlift support from C-130J Hercules aircraft was
provided by units from the 19th Airlift Wing, Little Rock AFB, Ark., and
317th Airlift Group, Dyess AFB, Texas. U.S. Army participants came from
the 10th Special Forces Group and 4th Infantry Division Stryker
Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade and 13th Air Support Operations
Squadron, Fort Carson, Colo.
The initial portion of the exercise called for the 4th ID to utilize
C-17 airlift for landing zone infiltration. AMLOs and CR Airmen from the
621st CRW worked with 4th ID and 21st and 4th AS to secure airlift for
U.S. Army Stryker combat vehicles and personnel participating in the
exercise. This training called for two contingency response teams to
open and operate two locations in Southern California. The final
destination for the Strykers was Freedom Forward Landing Strip at Fort
Irwin, Calif., which provided the 4th ID the opportunity to execute an
actual assault of a landing zone at Ft Irwin's National Training Center
and assisted in preparing the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team for combat
Lt. Col. Chris Fuller, 621st Air Mobility Advisor Group, Army Liaison,
and Master Sgt. Jeff Holloway, 821st Contingency Response Squadron chief
of standards and evaluation, worked to facilitate efforts between the
AMLOs hold a unique position in the Air Force; as rated airlift officers
attached to Army units, they provide expertise on the effective use of
air mobility assets for the Air Force and sister services.
Communication between services is often a challenge as members from the
Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps typically have differing
terminology and coordination procedure requests. AMLOs are
geographically separated from their parent wing at JB MDL and embedded
with units from sister services in locations around the world. They
provide a critical link in bridging the gap in communication between the
Air Force and their host unit. Exercise Cerberus Strike provided
real-time opportunities for AMLOs to enhance communication and increase
the efficiency of joint service efforts..
"AMLOs expand exercise objectives by bringing joint service units into
planning and execution, which ultimately maximizes the effectiveness and
realism of the exercise," Fuller said. "AMLOs are the glue between the
Army and Air Force."
During the exercise, Fuller, Holloway and their teams assisted with the
joint inspection of Stryker vehicles, facilitated movements at the SoCal
Logistics Airport in Victorville, Calif., and coordinated landing zones
and off-loading capabilities at various locations.
Holloway, one of the primary exercise developers, examined the
requirements of Army units as an opportunity to cultivate opportunities
for CRW and airlift airmen to engage in real-time training.
"Reaching out to our AMLOs at Fort Carson, we saw the opportunity for a
partnership with the 10th Special Forces Group and 4th ID," Holloway
said. "The Stryker battalion was tasked with executing operations at
National Training Center at Fort Irwin. With the opportunity for some
excellent training for all three CR units at Travis, we started looking
into the potential of facilitating the air shipment of the Stryker
From this simple beginning and some vision and support from leadership
the exercise grew into a truly robust training event for everyone
After opening and closing the two airfields in California, CR forces
forward deployed to Colorado opening three more airfields. There the CRW
provided 10 C-130 crews with realistic combat training, high-altitude
work and semi-prepared runway operations at one of the most difficult
C-130 landing zones in the world, while ensuring airdrop qualification
of 70 members from the 10th Special Forces Group. In all, over 375
personnel from across the military participated.
"In a complex scenario like this, everyone has to think on their feet to
overcome unforeseen challenges," said Maj. Eli Persons, 921st
Contingency Response Squadron assistant director of operations. "What I
was most impressed with was the ingenuity and initiative of our CR
Airmen to handle whatever came their way."
In a number of firsts, CR Airmen and airlift crews flying in the
exercise conducted a combined exercise debrief. It focused on shared
areas for improvement and identified best practices that improve
interoperability of CR forces and the airlift community it works with.
"This debrief provided all participants a tangible understanding of the
shared lessons learned that improve our performance as a mobility team
not just separate CR and airlift forces," Slaughter said.
"The list of accomplishments for this exercise was truly remarkable,"
said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krulick, 821st CRS director of operations. One
critical example provided was that "It was the first time we had the
AMLOs fully integrate with CR and joint forces in a training exercise."
According to Lt. Col. Dan Cordes, 821st CRS commander, the development
of the unique and targeted training opportunity is perhaps the most
The value and success of this training was readily apparent to all
participants as squadrons utilized their own training dollars to
integrate into the exercise; and the support and willingness to
participate in what started off as a local squadron-level training event
was, "truly remarkable," according to Cordes.
"This [exercise] was created from the imagination and creativity of
several [of our own] hard-working Airmen with full time responsibilities
in their squadron and involved with the daily operations of the units,"
Cordes said. "The learning, integration, and understanding that came
from developing and executing an exercise as complex as this is second
to none, and undoubtedly those that participated are more prepared than
ever to execute their mission."