MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — Between Feb. 27 and March 3, 2018, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida hosted Patriot Sands, a joint-force exercise to train contingency response personnel and maintain operational proficiency.
Patriot Sands is an annual, five-day training exercise that the Air Force Reserve Command and other affiliations use to improve operational readiness through joint cooperation.
Among the forces involved were the AFRC, Air Mobility Command, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Coast Guard, the Florida Advanced Surgical and Transportation team, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We use the exercise Patriot Sands to maximize efficiency by identifying limiting factors in our training process,” said Lt. Col. Anita West-Werner, the commander of the 512th Contingency Response Squadron at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. “Throughout Patriot Sands, we develop and maintain unit readiness and evaluate our capability to rapidly deploy by air, as well as operate in austere conditions.”
During the exercise, the 512th CRS operated as the lead unit at MacDill.
In addition to the 512th CRS, the 46th Aerial Port Squadron and 712th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Dover AFB sent personnel, four C-17 Globemaster III and a C-5 Galaxy to MacDill.
“We are training to increase our rapid air mobility efficiency,” said Tech. Sgt. Kurtis Crawford, an aerial ramp coordinator assigned to the 512th CRS. “We validate load plans, perform joint inspections on all cargo, and process passengers.”
Crawford said one of the initial items hauled and unloaded as cargo was a hardside expandable light air mobility shelter, also referred to as HELAMS.
A HELAMS is able to unload into a fully-functional mobile command center. This is where the 512th CRS conducted their operations for the entirety of the training exercise, and is needed for operational success.
“A great part of this exercise is that we are able to work with our local partners, sister services, and affiliates to be able to handle national threats, such as a natural disaster,” said West-Werner.
After MacDill evacuated last year due to Hurricane Irma, maintaining mission preparedness and readiness is crucial for the AFRC and its partners for future emergency situations.
“Any emergency situation can’t be handled by just one unit or one branch of service,” said Crawford. “It’s the collaboration and communication of multiple units through training exercises like this that is required to get the job done.”