GULFPORT COMBAT READINESS TRAINING CENTER, Miss. --
More than 100 Reserve Citizen Airmen assigned to the 910th Airlift Wing participated in Operation Cardinal South, a full-scale readiness exercise, from Nov. 14–18, at the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Mississippi. The exercise was coupled with a Unit Effectiveness Inspection capstone, marking the first time a UEI has been carried out this way with an Air Force Reserve unit.
Operation Cardinal South was designed to provide Airmen from the 910th AW the opportunity to complete necessary training to remain current and combat-ready.
During the five-day mission, Airmen of varied ranks worked closely with one another to conduct routine base operations in a simulated combat environment that included Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosive threats and responses and actions by opposing forces including ground attacks. All the while, wing inspection team members analyzed and documented the unit’s performance as part of the UEI capstone.
For 2nd Lt. Dean Lutz, an intelligence officer assigned to the 910th Operations Support Squadron, this was his first experience with an exercise of this magnitude with his home unit.
“I had a little experience with exercises like this from technical school,” said Lutz. “So I figured it would be similar to those experiences.”
Being a new officer, Lutz missed out on receiving the full extent of CBRNE training due to the long-term impacts of COVID-19. The training requires Airmen to carry out the mission while wearing varying degrees of personal protective equipment which can be cumbersome.
“My first experience with CBRNE equipment was during my routine unit training assembly a few months ago,” said Lutz. “To me, CBRNE training is a repetition/muscle memory thing. So having the extra practice during Operation Cardinal South with a simulated incoming threat was definitely worthwhile.”
Through training exercises like Operation Cardinal South, incoming Airmen are able to put into practice specific skills learned during their technical training, all the while working closely with more veteran Airmen.
Col. Jeff Van Dootingh, commander of the 910th Airlift Wing, oversaw his wing’s participation in the exercise.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the men and women of the 910th AW volunteering to be the first unit to combine a UEI capstone with a full-scale readiness exercise,” said Van Dootingh. “The results speak for themselves—compliance was ‘effective’ across the board, and we’re definitely more ready to defeat a near-peer adversary.”
The concept of combining a UEI capstone with a major readiness exercise helped the 910th Airlift Wing hone and test its combat readiness and expedite progress toward the Air Force Reserve Command vision of "Readiness NOW!"