Palmetto Challenge: Total Force Readiness
By Airman Gage Rodriguez, Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs
/ Published November 23, 2020
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
More than 100 Airmen from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, including Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 315th Airlift Wing, participated in the Palmetto Challenge, a global mobilization exercise, at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., and Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, Nov. 16-20.
Palmetto Challenge gives Airmen the ability to experience a simulated deployment that includes different real-world situations ranging from simulated gas attacks and Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) readiness, to security forces arming a Mobile Anti-Drone Systems Kit.
“Palmetto Challenge is an exercise we do at Joint Base Charleston that involves total force, 628th Airbase Wing, 437th Airlift Wing, and also the 315th Reserve unit,” said Lt. Col Lee Holfert, 628 MSG deputy commander. “ we work together as a team, to exercise our readiness and to make sure our readiness is polished up and ready to go if ever needed.”
Chad Hashley, chief of exercise plans for the 628th Air Base Wing Inspector General office, oversees planning and execution of exercises that occur during the week-long simulated deployment.
“The overall purpose of Palmetto Challenge is to make sure that we’re still concentrating our efforts on our readiness, as a base, and overall Air Force,” said Hashley. “Now that we’re coming into a lull of war where we are not doing as much deploying as we have in the past, we need to make sure that we’re still maintaining that same level of readiness for the next war that comes.”
Rapid response and overall readiness is key to a deadly air power. Palmetto Challenge allows the Wing Inspection Team (WIT) to inspect and grade the preparedness of all Airmen involved in each scenario.
“This gives us the opportunity to evaluate their capabilities, but also to learn and keep their training up,” said Hashley.
Many situations would require the cooperation between multiple units including Security Forces, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, the Crisis Action Team, and many other mission essential units. The benefits Airmen receive from this experience allow senior leaders from the WIT team to critique and help develop Airmen during each real world scenario.
Preparation for Palmetto Challenge comes with a lot of planning and objectives that need to be met to ensure that Joint Base Charleston as a base is as ready as possible.
“It starts out with a concept and objective meeting where you’re basically getting the information from the commander and identifying what their intent is and what needs to be tested,” said Hashley.
Participating in regular training promotes readiness and awareness, and the ability to train consistently allows the Airmen to sharpen their skills and remain prepared for any real-world situation.
“We’re not deploying to the same environments that we used to, so you have Airmen that may never get a chance to see what we have done or what we’re preparing to do,” said Hashley. “Whether it be at war or at peace, we are always ready for that next big thing to come around.”
Col. Bobby DeGregorio, 315th Airlift Wing Support Group Commander and a Senior Palmetto Challenge leader, described the importance of planning and how much of a team effort it was.
“This is the first time in a long time that the players planned all the logistics of the exercise and because of that it has been much smoother than previous,” said DeGregorio. “You could feel the positive energy from all because many had ownership in making it happen.”
During the exercise DeGregorio had polled the Airmen that attended this training and found that 40% had never taken part in an exercise before.
“This is a huge first step for members to really get a feel for why they wear the uniform,” said DeGregorio.