WUNSTORF AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) —
One hundred sixty-five members of the Air National Guard‘s contingency response career field assigned to the 123rd and 156th Contingency Response Groups and the 172nd and 146th Contingency Response Flights deployed to Wunstorf Air Base, in support of exercise Air Defender 2023, bringing with them their versatility and expertise to ensure the exercise goes efficiently for all 10,000 participants.
Contingency response is a unique career field with numerous mission capabilities; to enter the career field, Airmen must cross-train in after gaining experience in a different job. This is necessary because of the type of contingency, humanitarian and exercise missions that CR supports.
“The primary role of contingency response is to provide base opening operations, and once that is established, we can quickly and effectively disperse cargo and personnel throughout a region,” said Master Sgt. Jeff Allen, a loadmaster with the 146th CRF, California Air National Guard. “We can start ramp procedures and bring aircraft, people and supplies into any environment.”
Numerous jobs are required to set up an airfield where none existed before. CR members come from many career fields throughout the Air Force, including aircraft maintainers, aerial porters, security forces, personnelists, communication specialists, weather specialists and medical personnel, among others.
“We are a well-run machine; we’re a small group and know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, so we can come in and work together to set up things as quickly and efficiently as possible, with the least amount of downtime, and then have a smooth transition back out again,” said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Wilson, an airfield manager with the 172nd CRF, Mississippi Air National Guard.
To achieve their mission, CR uses the multi-capable Airman, or MCA, concept the Air Force is beginning to implement.
MCA results from the development of Air Force Doctrine Note 1-21, Agile Combat Employment, an operational concept that supports merging career fields. The aim is to train and develop Airmen who are already proficient in their regular duties in tasks outside their normal day-to-day operations, allowing smaller teams to accomplish a mission quickly and with fewer resources.
“All members of contingency response train in each other’s jobs as best as possible,” said Staff Sgt. Anfernee Joseph, a mission operator with the 146th Contingency Response Flight, California ANG. “We fill in the gaps for each other since we’re such a small team. Everyone learns each other’s job, making us operate more smoothly, enabling us to do more with less.”
Facilitating seamless operations is essential because many other positions rely on CR to be able to do their job.
“CR is necessary because we set up airfields and keep them operating short-term,” Wilson said. “If CR could not do its job, there would be a lot of downtime and considerable communication delays. Everyone would be unable to do their jobs; the mission times would be severely delayed. Our multi-capable Airmen keep things running during exercises such as this.”
CR has the substantial job of processing over 10,000 exercise participants and over 3.4 million pounds of cargo back and forth between the U.S. and other airfields in Germany during exercise AD23.
“We’ll start receiving all the cargo and personnel back from other airfields here in Germany soon,” Wilson said. “The cargo yard here at Wunstorf Air Base will be full, and we’ll start processing it all back on aircraft as the exercise ends June 23 and the main body of participants begin to leave.”
According to Wilson, the team will be able to accomplish their mission of getting all exercise participants and equipment out on time because everyone in CR tries to help where they can and exemplifies the MCA concept.
“Everyone does more than just their job,” Wilson said. “That’s the whole point of CR. We not only do our jobs, but we help our wingmen out.”
The end goal for CR is ultimately to accomplish the mission — no matter what’s necessary.
“Even though I’m in airfield management, I can help the command-and-control Airmen,” Wilson said. “I can jump into their spot if they’re busy with planes coming in and going out or in an emergency when it’s necessary to have more help. Putting up a tent or answering a phone may not be your assigned job but we all do what we can to help each other and benefit the mission. We’re working together to complete this exercise and move on to the next one.”