Eagle Flag exercise brings services together
By Senior Airman Charles Rivezzo, 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 28, 2015
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. (AFNS) -- The boots of more than 170 Airmen and Soldiers trekked through the grounds of a remote exercise site here.
All that stood before them was a barren field, their boots sinking into deep mud with each step, all while ice and snow thawed and soaked the ground around them.
They had officially arrived at the fictitious nation of Nivan, in support of Eagle Flag 15-2, a weeklong exercise geared toward developing, testing and rehearsing rapid opening of an aerial port and the establishment of cargo distribution capability.
The over-arching concept behind the mobility based exercise relates to U.S. Transportation Command's Joint Task Force-Port Opening mission set; a robust combination of the Air Force's swift airbase opening capability and the Army's critical over-land cargo movement, tracking and distribution capability.
Hosted by the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, Eagle Flag is used to evaluate mobility operations and expeditionary combat support. Unlike traditional, simulation-based exercises, it provides a dynamic venue with scenarios designed to challenge participants executing complex operations in a deployed environment.
These attributes drew USTRANSCOM officials to sponsor multiple Eagle Flag events over the past several years as part of a broader JTF-PO training program.
Although scripted beforehand, the reaction of participants within the exercise drive the scenario, good or bad, to further enhance the sense of realism. Eagle Flag uses role players to provide realistic interaction and involvement throughout the scenarios, acting as host nation civilians, government and military officials, and other critical roles.
"The Expeditionary Center is well-versed at allowing you to set up operations and then start throwing scenarios at you that you might encounter in the operational environment," said Col. Scott Zippwald, the 570th Contingency Response Group commander and commander of the JTF-PO. "It's challenging enough to open an austere airbase and set up a distribution network without any kind of other factors on you, but part of this exercise is learning to adapt to any environment we may be called upon to operate within.
"A big part of this mission-set is our interaction and coordination with the host-nation - the EF staff does a superb job at creating those opportunities. The JTF-PO team is also trained to execute this mission in a semi-permissive environment with the potential of hostile actions against us ... something they also simulate very well," Zippwald continued. "When you put all these different elements together, the experience created at Eagle Flag makes for a very complex and realistic training environment."
The simulated tasking placed upon the Airmen from the 570th CRG at Travis Air Force Base, California, and Soldiers from the 688th Rapid Port Opening Element at Fort Eustis, Virginia, focused on testing the Joint Task Force's ability to provide humanitarian aid and disaster relief to refugee camps - a scenario similar to recent efforts supporting Ebola relief operations as part of Operation United Assistance.
"Our goal is to turn a barren dirt strip into a bustling logistics hub some 12 hours later," Zippwald said. "It's pretty impressive to show up and there is nothing there ... zero. And hours later you've got a fully functioning airbase and distribution system getting supplies to people in need.
"Eagle Flag validates our mission-set and instills confidence in our Airmen that when something happens around the world, and we get the call, we are going to deliver," Zippwald continued. "That's a testament to the contingency response mindset we possess and the type of Airmen we have in the CRW."
The JTF-PO mission-set brings a unique tool and it underscores the Air Force’s ability to project power and reach anywhere in the world and extend an open hand to those in need, he added.
"CRW Airmen are postured to react quickly and deliver," Zippwald said. "Our operations in Africa and Iraq last summer are great examples of what our highly trained Airmen bring to the fight. The world remains a volatile place, and we will certainly be called upon in the future. Eagle Flag gives us that opportunity to ensure we are 'tip of the spear ... ready to go.'"