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Airlift control Airmen set the stage for operations

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jennifer Gerhardt
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Of the 12 Reservists in nine specialties from the 446th Airlift Control Flight, not one of them could evacuate an injured citizen to a waiting hospital. Then again, nobody could without the help of these 12 Airmen, who participated in Pacific Lifeline Jan. 26 to Feb. 9.

Pacific Lifeline is a humanitarian assistance disaster response exercise which took place on three Hawaiian Islands with more than 900 Department of Defense personnel, including 145 Reservists from the 446th Airlift Wing.

"Eight of us arrived early to set up tents, serve as the personnel readiness function, receive aircraft, and help the exercise players coming on station," said Maj. Ray Luevenos, contingency response element operations officer from the 446th ALCF. "Once the people in charge of those functions arrived, we were able to completely focus on our mission."

The CRE is a mesh of Airmen spanning nine Air Force Specialty Codes, from aerial porters and civil engineers to loadmasters and operations officers. They possess the ability to deploy anywhere in the world within 36 hours and act as a mobile command post and logistical support unit. Whether setting up a flightline or tracking air assets, the CRE ensures air operations can begin at even the most remote airfield.

"The only difference between doing our job downrange and humanitarian assistance is that we're dealing mostly with medical equipment and passengers," said Master Sgt. Lyle Lane, a loadmaster with the 446th ALCF. "Downrange it is more cargo and troops with a mix of medevac, instead of all medical."

Normally, the CRE deploys with a 16-person team. During the Pacific Lifeline exercise, they had a 12-person team running 24-hour operations in charge of real-world accountability for all Air Mobility Command aircraft, people, and cargo.

"Each person in the ALCF wears about four or five hats," said Master Sgt. Tom Martin, the senior Air Reserve Technician in the 446th ALCF.

Sergeant Martin has worked in the ALCF as an airfield manager since 1997, ensuring runways are properly setup and safe enough to handle cargo aircraft. Like every member of the ALCF, his level of responsibility extends beyond his AFSC. Certified to deploy in a command position, Sergeant Martin has the authority of a commissioned officer in certain deployment scenarios.

However, Sergeant Martin and the rest of the CRE crew didn't do it all. There was a lot of communication and coordination with the aeromedical evacuation operations team, the air transportation operations center, and the contingency aeromedical staging facility.

"It is a training environment for everyone involved," said Major Luevenos. "We're each learning how to work with each other. At the end of the day, we want to be safe and iron out any problems (during exercises), so we're more efficient and operate smoothly downrange."

The CRE is different from the AEOT and ATOC because their main focus is the aircraft, while the AEOT and ATOC focus on the medical cargo and patients. The biggest challenge between the three operation centers was communication so each agency is more efficient and not duplicating tasks.

"There is a lot of coordination and communication between the three areas," said Major Luevenos. "We're the belly button for everything that is going on at the flightline and we work together to ensure everything matches up at the end of the day."