TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Reserve Citizen Airmen traveled to multiple military installations in California this week to take part in their units’ first major West Coast readiness exercise since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Exercise Nexus Dawn, which took place April 26-28, 2021, was designed to safely test the ability of certain Air Force Reserve units to generate, employ, and sustain air operations in a simulated contested, degraded, and operationally limited environment.
Planning for the readiness exercise started in May 2019. Despite the onset of the pandemic, inspections teams from the 349th AMW at Travis Air Force Base, California, and the 446th Airlift wing from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, pressed forward with their plans to create a robust test of units’ combat readiness, adopting precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along the way.
“COVID-19 evolved into planning factors not just for the players but for the planners,” said Lt. Col. Gerard Guevara, director of inspections for the 349th Air Mobility Wing Inspections Directorate. “Avoiding the spread of the virus also became an exercise objective. Attention was given to occupancy of vehicles for transportation, numbers of players in one area at a time, work center sanitation, and mask wearing at all times.”
During the exercise, Reserve Citizen Airmen were presented with a series of realistic and challenging missions, including aeromedical evacuation, airlift of cargo and personnel, aerial refueling, deployment processing, aerial port operations, and command and control.
Coordinating the exercise over the course of nearly two years, especially 2020, presented significant challenges for the primary planners who are stationed 720 miles apart. Ultimately, their commitment to a shared mission and vision, and their embrace of new technology and processes bridged the physical gap.
“Besides select site visits, planning was done remotely, which allowed opportunities to explore new communication platforms,” Guevara said. “This whole platform was built upon relationships and goodwill between wings, and within them.”
Reservists from Travis and Beale Air Force Bases, as well as March Air Reserve Base, all in California, took part in the exercise.
They were joined by fellow Fourth Air Force units at JBLM, McConnell AFB, Kansas, and Dover AFB, Delaware. The California Air National Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno contributed Combat Air Forces to the scenarios, and active duty Marines from Camp Pendleton added a joint forces.
“This exercise highlighted that our Reserve Citizen Airmen need experiences like this to get better at their jobs, and to be able to provide airpower anytime, anywhere,” Guevara said. “And we owe that to them and the American public, despite limitations of this pandemic.”