June, 21

AF hosts humanitarian aid disaster relief training exercise for AOCs, historic first FAA participation

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Airmen from the 505th Combat Training Squadron recently executed a Regional Air Movement Coordination Center exercise to test the capabilities of air operations centers and train two air component specialty teams to respond to a humanitarian aid/disaster relief, or HA/DR, operations at Hurlburt Field


Personnel from six organizations gathered for the four-day interactive distributed training event in preparation for hurricane season. 


After a major natural disaster, RAMCCs are typically established to help prevent airspace conflicts and congestion when significant military forces operate in an area with an inadequate air traffic control infrastructure. RAMCC team members deconflict aircraft directed by the joint or combined AOCs with other aircraft participating in the contingency or during disaster relief operations (e.g., United Nations, Red Cross, non-governmental organizations, international military/government and commercial operators). 


“The training received from the 505th CTS enables the 612th Air Operations Center to maintain a ready roster of personnel available at a moment’s notice to provide procedural airspace coordination and contingency airflow management of civilian and military aircraft during a crisis,” said Maj. Jameson Decker, 612th AOC Command and Control innovation chief. 


The exercise used a fictional scenario of “Hurricane Zelda,” which struck multiple Caribbean islands and moved through the Gulf of Mexico to the Florida panhandle. 


The 612th AOC along with forward-deployed personnel from the 183rd Air Operations Group, Illinois Air National Guard, participated from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, standing up a RAMCC to control the high volume of humanitarian relief air missions flying into their area of responsibility to deliver medical supplies, water, food, personnel and equipment. The total force team was tasked to manage four HA/DR locations, coordinating arrival and departure times, and reacting to events that challenged the orderly flow of missions. The 601st AOC Air Mobility Division personnel travelled to the 186th Air Operation Group, Mississippi ANG, which used this exercise to test their readiness to maintain Continuity of Operations Plan, or COOP, and train ANG members on RAMCC operations for three airfields. 


“The annual RAMCC exercise allows us to train our team from the top down, from the graduate level with our leadership team, down to brand new individuals who are working in the RAMCC for the first time,” said Maj. Grant Clay, Air Force Southern Personnel Recovery Coordination Center director.

“We proved to ourselves that having the 183rd AOG members here at the 612th AOC was a game changer; after all, in our AOR, it is not ‘if’ a natural disaster occurs, but ‘when’ and we must be ready.” – Maj. Grant Clay, Air Force Southern Personnel Recovery Coordination Center Director


The 505th CTS team also incorporated a floor exercise for the 612th AOC and their 183rd AOG augmentees with scenarios to train the AOC divisions. Various scenarios were presented to test the training audience to respond and react according to their established procedures. 


“It provided a great opportunity for coordination between the Combat Operations Floor and our IO [Information Operations] team,” said Christopher Wirth, AFSOUTH IO team. “Of note, the robustness of the exercise has allowed our IO team to discover some critical IO gaps we are now working to resolve. It’s great to be able to identify these shortfalls in an exercise, rather than during a real-world RAMCC operation.” 


RAMCC exercises have been conducted at Hurlburt Field by the 505th CTS since 2017, which are directed and developed by Anne Smerekanicz, the 505th CTS’s RAMCC lead and airlift/tanker program analyst. 


Fifteen 505th CTS personnel directed the exercise from Hurlburt Field with the assistance of seven augmentees from the 612th AOC, 183rd AOG and 601st AOC. One team was designated for RAMCC operations, taking on diverse roles such as ground reservation requestors and contingency response teams at downrange airfields, U.S. Agency for International Development and Federal Emergency Management Agency points of contact, and air mobility roles of Air Mobility Command and director of Mobility Forces. The second team focused on training vignettes to exercise the 612th AOC’s divisions, using various types of communication for exercise inputs and the C2 Weapons System Part Task Trainer, or C2WSPTT, to provide a common operating picture, or COP. 


“For the first time, we expanded the RAMCC exercise scenario to incorporate the AOC divisions in the FLOOREX portion, making this a much more robust exercise than ever before,” Smerekanicz said. “We also wanted participants to be able to see an ‘air picture’ of all civilian and military flights arriving and departing the airfields in the AOR. We worked with the C2WSPTT team to use the C2WSPTT to provide a simulated live feed of all the air missions in the scenario, which was critical for giving the training audience real-time feedback on performance.” 


The participating “white cell” augmentees were not only able to role-play various agencies but received training themselves on how to set up and execute an exercise. 


In a significant first, the exercise also included participation by the Federal Aviation Administration through their crisis response and emergency operations manager. The FAA will use their observations to supplement their preparation for future disaster response and coordination with Airmen, particularly in the mobility Air Forces. 


“This training allowed us to understand RAMCC products and procedures across various AORs/AOCs and the integration with NGOs/FAA,” said U.S. ANG Lt. Col. Erica Stooksbury, 183rd Air Mobility Operations Squadron director of operations. “We had a great experience and are excited to take these lessons back to improve the exercises we develop for our AOG/AMOS.” 


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