FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – The installation’s ability to deploy forces by air, rail, highway and inland waterway makes it a major power projection platform for the Army.
U.S. Army Garrison-Fort Campbell most recently exercised that capability by supporting a Joint Task Force-Port Opening Exercise, or JTF-PO, July 8-22 to train Army and Air Force personnel on disaster relief operations.
“Our major training objective is to open and operate an airfield for cargo and passenger operations,” said Col. Jeff Krulick, commander, 821st Contingency Response Group, Travis Air Force Base, California. “And then to be able to take that cargo to the local populace because we’re doing a humanitarian relief and disaster assistance scenario. The Army team here has all the capabilities, personnel and know-how to get that cargo quickly to where it needs to go.”
Krulick said the exercise allowed Army and Air Force personnel to gain practical experience working together before taking on real-world missions, and that Fort Campbell was a perfect training location.
“There are a lot of assets here at Fort Campbell, whether those are for mobility or to support our needs,” he said. “At Sabre Army Airfield, the airfield manager was open to allowing us to use a good portion of the ramp and the resources here. That allowed us to have free roam to demonstrate what we need to do, because we need a fairly large area for our aircraft and cargo.”
Agencies from across the garrison came together to support the operation’s logistics, including the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security (DPTMS); Directorate of Emergency Services (DES); Blanchfield Army Community Hospital (BACH); Army Field Support Battalion-Campbell (AFSBn); Directorate of Public Works (DPW); Mission and Installation Contracting Command (MICC-Fort Campbell); and the Regional Network Enterprise Center (RNEC).
“Everybody that we reached out to has been very supportive, and it just shows the versatility and the willingness of the people at Fort Campbell to get the mission accomplished,” said Eric Coulter, operations specialist, Plans and Operations Division, DPTMS. “I think it’s gone very well, and it was a plus to show the capabilities of Fort Campbell by operating at two airfields at the same time.”
Before airfield operations began, an initial team from Travis Air Force Base conducted site assessments in the same way they would during a real mission. Then the aircraft began delivering relief cargo, which Army personnel loaded for a convoy route.
“We are the ground element for the training exercise,” said Maj. Arron Edmonds, 689th Rapid Port Opening Element, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. “Their job is to bring the plane in with cargo and discharge that plane, and our job is to pick up that cargo and send it out to the forward node so the warfighters can get their supplies.”
The Soldiers were also tasked with providing security, from engaging with a simulated protest outside the airfield to making sure the convoy route was safe to travel.
Edmonds said the training was valuable for his Soldiers and translated directly into their mission to facilitate movement of warfighters, equipment and supplies.
“We’ve never been here, so it’s like going to a different country,” he said. “You don’t know the location, and you have to do your assessment and figure out how to establish these logistic nodes to bring supplies in and out. But the biggest thing is it gives Soldiers an opportunity to do their job and become experts in their field, because live training like this will benefit the Army for the next two generations of leaders.”
One of the younger Soldiers participating in the training was Spc. Jisseo Utria, 689th RPOE, who appreciated the opportunity to travel to the installation for the exercise.
“Personally, I’ve gained a lot of experience,” Utria said. “We’ve been able to move equipment and vehicles faster and with better positioning, and teamwork is a big part of it. This is my first time doing an exercise like this and I’ve learned a lot.”
First Lieutenant Reina Gonzales, 689th RPOE, said the goal for her Soldiers was to deliver eight pallets per hour and they made good time.
“This is something we would actually be doing in real life if our unit got activated, so it’s a great experience for us as Soldiers,” Gonzales said. “It’s definitely preparing our Soldiers for any upcoming missions they may get activated for, because our unit’s specific cause is to support humanitarian efforts and disaster relief.”
Coulter said Fort Campbell benefitted from the exercise as well, even though the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) was not participating.
“If we’re supporting [the Air Force], it will also identify potential shortfalls that we have here,” he said. “It could be as simple as them needing a forklift in the middle of the night to download an exercise aircraft and we don’t have that. Then the next time, it’s not one of our own aircraft and we aren’t caught in a situation where we’re pushing troops out the door and we’re not able to meet the need.”