Airmen, Marines, Ospreys join forces for exercise
Staff Sgt. Nathan Smith, 571st Global Mobility Squadron aerial porter, verifies a passenger manifest with Marines from Camp Pendleton,Calif., April, 19, 2012, after their arrival for Exercise Bronco.

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - When the distress call comes, the men and women of the 615th Contingency Response Wing have proven their ability to respond effectively to crises in some of the most remote regions of the globe. But what if that emergency call rang out closer to home? What if a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated the area surrounding Santa Cruz, Calif., requiring an immediate humanitarian aid response?

This was precisely the scenario that set the stage for the more than 300 service members who participated in Exercise Bronco, a joint training, five-day exercise that took place at two locations in California. Airfield operations were conducted at Fort Hunter Liggett's Schoonover Landing Zone, while another team performed missions at Amedee Army Airfield near Reno, Nev.

Airmen, Marines, Guard and Reserve personnel rallied together combining their professional expertise for the realistic crisis response simulation in April. The exercise was a unique opportunity for 615th CRW airmen to receive quality, hands-on training close to home.

Exercise Bronco was also unique because it provided nearly two dozen pilots valuable dirt landing zone training similar to what they could expect during operations in Afghanistan and similar regions. Pilots and crews flew nearly 20 Marine Corps and Air Force aircraft during the exercise.

"It just benefits us in the long run the more opportunities we get to work together," said Maj. Sean Lewis, 573rd Global Support Squadron. " It helps us to build those partnerships with our sister services."

KC-130 Hercules, C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III and MV-22 Ospreys moved more than 200,000 pounds of supplies and transported nearly 100 Marines from Camp Pendleton.

"We cannot do this training alone," said Lt. Col. Joel Safranek, 573rd Global Support Squadron commander. "The CRW needs other partners to participate to make it successful for all. Everyone involved needs the training to perform their real-world operational missions. Most of the aircraft could not accomplish dirt landings without people on the ground operating the landing zone, and the people on the ground could not get their training without real aircraft."

The training experience proved valuable for service members from numerous functional areas including pilots, aircrews, air mobility liaison officers, maintenance, communications, security forces, aerial port, load planners and command and control specialists. Bronco was an opportunity for airmen to complete functional evaluations and weapons qualification, conduct training events using night vision goggles and prepare for upcoming missions. Seven airmen trained to become landing zone safety officers, a new mission for the CRW.

Safranek emphasized the importance of joint training missions like Bronco.

"This is an opportunity to become familiar with the terminology used by the Marine Corps and for them to become familiar with ours," he said.

The exercise experience also prepared airmen to conduct airfield operations with the rotary aircraft used by the Marines, notably the MV-22 Osprey. In a humanitarian crisis, rotary aircraft like the Osprey would likely require airfield support.

Joint support is the driving force behind the success of U.S. humanitarian response operations. Exercises like Bronco are opportunities to train on service-specific tasks and also practice interoperability between forces. It highlighted contingency response capabilities and was instrumental in strengthening total force and joint partnerships.

Page last updated Mon June 18th, 2012 at 00:00