By Airman 1st Class Jason Grabiec, 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National GuardMay 17, 2018
NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas - In early American history, the Minutemen were civilian colonists who organized together into militia companies and earned their name by being ready at a minute's notice. The Minuteman is the symbol of the National Guard, and that history, work ethic and dedication to being ready when called upon is what it means to be a member of the National Guard.
This ethos was ingrained in all levels of a Joint Forcible Entry exercise coined "Minuteman JFE" between the 182nd Airlift Wing out of Peoria, Illinois, and 1st Battalion (Airborne), 143rd Infantry Regiment out of Terrell, Texas, where the capabilities of both forces were on full display, said Maj. Brandon Retherford, a standardization and evaluation pilot with the 182nd Operations Group. The JFE is the doctrinal capability where tactical airlift forces, empowered by combat airframes, airdrop an airborne brigade into a contested space for the purposes of seizing and establishing an airfield which is then used to build up combat power in an area that can be done anywhere, any time.
"For tactical airlifters such as the C-130, it's about the capability of taking all the parts of our core competency and putting them together into one capstone event," said Retherford. "Minuteman JFE took what was going to be a unit flyaway and Airmen trainer, and we paired it with an airborne assault force. So, we were able to use it to create an all-National Guard JFE between Army National Guard and Air National Guard, and we are doing it in the footprint of a drill weekend."
Retherford and other 182nd unit members planned the event for over a year and offered Airmen the opportunity to showcase their tactical abilities in a challenging environment. Participating in exercises like this JFE allows Guard members to do the job that they were trained to do and fulfill the commitment that they made when they raised their right hand during enlistment, said Retherford.
The central event of the JFE was to have multiple 182nd C-130 Hercules aircraft drop over 200 paratroopers onto a simulated contested airfield, secure and prepare it for landing. The 143rd is a National Guard infantry unit with airborne capability and added a unique element to the mission.
"Our mission is to be readily usable for the 173rd [Airborne Brigade] and deployable," said Army Sgt. Nicholas Graff, a team leader with the 143rd Infantry Regiment. "As an augmentee unit in the National Guard, we want to be just as ready as the active duty component that we support."
Although coming from different branches of the military, the Soldiers and Airmen who were involved in the exercise cooperated to complete the mission as fellow Guard members.
"Everybody here is professional, and they care about what they do," said Army Capt. Matthew Barton, a company commander with the 143rd Infantry Regiment. "They have full-time jobs, but when they come in, they're here to work and they put forth a lot of effort. So, I do it because I enjoy being surrounded by this type of people who care and want to do more with their life."
Being a Guard member demands possessing a high level of readiness that comes through preparation and practice derived from exercises such as the Minuteman JFE.
"We are trying to maintain a level of proficiency and efficiency in case we ever get a call that we have to go down range," said Army Spc. Lindsey Crabb, an automated logistical specialist with the 143rd Infantry Regiment. "In the end we are all here for one purpose and that's to serve our country. I like the feeling or pride and being a part of something that's greater than myself. I enjoy getting to see the emersion between the two branches."
Through the collaborative efforts of the operations and maintenance groups at the 182nd, Peoria was able to plan and execute the exercise while simultaneously employing the unit's entire fleet.
Our job is to provide a mission ready aircraft for operations so that we are able to drop these paratroopers and they can do what they need to do and complete the mission, said Airman 1st Class Charles Barnett, an aerospace maintenance specialist with the 182nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "It's a very fulfilling job. When you are out there and see the plane take off, you know that you've done your part in the overall mission. This trip has been great. This is what I signed up to do and I've really loved coming out here to do it."
Minuteman JFE was not only an exercise used to practice Guard preparedness, but also served as a showcase to display what the Peoria Air National Guard is capable of by demonstrating its high C-130 readiness ratings.
"The only means by which we were able to put on this massive of an operation is through the excellent work ethic mixed with the great working relationships we have within the organizations on our base," said Retherford. "That combination is what gives us the ability to do big things like Minuteman JFE."