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AF rapid response unit enhances their skills during Patriot Sands

HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. (AFNS) -- The distinct sound of helicopters hovering, mixed with the roar of jet engines and automatic weapons fire from a nearby range, filled the air on a cool, sunny day in southeast Georgia.

Members from the 315th Airlift Wing’s Airlift Control Flight (ALCF) took part in Patriot Sands, a training exercise that kicked off Feb. 17 at Hunter Army Airfield.

The exercise incorporated the resources of several ALCF units, as well as affiliate agencies such as the FBI’s Rapid Response Team and the Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team.

ALCF is a rapid response unit comprised of experienced airlift and operations team members. This includes Airmen from nine Air Force career fields, who manage, coordinate and control air mobility assets in austere locations under combat conditions. Unit members are ready to deploy to any part of the world in 36 hours.

“Exercises like Patriot Sands are essential to our mission,” said Maj. John Ramsey, the 315th ALCF commander. “The pilots get to experience heavier loads than they normally do. The aerial porters get to work away from their home station, which helps them develop their skills. The loadmasters get operational experience with rolling stock, which isn’t normal to their everyday mission. And finally, we get the chance to practice and train on our mission set, which is setting up an airfield where we are able to handle the command and control of aircraft.”

For 315th ALCF members, the exercise started at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, where they loaded a C-17 Globemaster III, piloted by a crew from the 317th Airlift Squadron, and flew to Hunter AF.

“This type of training is an excellent example of how we stay mission ready and mission focused,” said Col. Caroline Evernham, the 315th Operations Group commander. “The ALCF works hard with their affiliates to ensure they are trained and ready to prepare their equipment for transport at any time. The efficiencies gained from this week's training will help us when we really need it."

One of the main items loaded onto the C-17 for the training was a large, tan-in-color container -- a hardside expandable light air mobility shelter (HELAMS).

The HELAMS, once set in its desired location, transforms from a plain box to a fully expanded and functional command and control center with doors, windows and electricity. This workspace is then used to house the communications equipment and gear needed for ALCF’s operational readiness.

Other than the hands-on training that ALCF receives from setting up their equipment during the exercise, team members also benefit from the affiliate agencies that they have partnered with to accomplish their training objectives.

“We make sure that the sister services and Department of Defense affiliates are current and ready for a real-world missions,” said Master Sgt. Mark Schmidt, 315th ALCF Operations NCO in charge.

ALCF teaches the FBI and other affiliate agencies to properly prepare their equipment for air mobility, Schmidt said. This includes the standardization of weighing, fueling, packing, cleaning, inspecting and sorting of their equipment so that it’s ready to load when the aircraft gets on station.

Patriot Sands is an annual Air Force Reserve Command exercise for ALCF to train in accordance with their designed operational capability mission statement to deploy as a contingency response element. The exercise is scheduled to last for five days.