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60-MPH wind, hail, buffet Patriot Express players

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kelly Galloway
  • 439th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
As I'm scraping out thick mud caked to the bottom of my boots I hear, "Well that definitely doesn't look good at all." Canvassing the mud-spattered site here, my jaw dropped. The 50-foot antenna mast, which serves as the primary communication for air to ground transmissions for the Hard-sided Expandable Lightweight Air Mobility Shelter, snapped at its midsection during 60-mph wind throughout the night. It lay twisted at a 90 degree angle. Pieces lay strewn about the ground.

"This is the kind of thing that happens in a deployed situation," Col. Mike Miller, 439th Operations Group commander, said. "Now they need to figure out how to handle the situation and press on with the mission."

This was day one of "Patriot Express," an annual Air Force Reserve Command-sponsored air mobility exercise.

Thirty-three Airmen, 20 from Westover, had just set up a 'bare-bones' base the day before, establishing communications, ensuring two generators worked and starting up a Small Package Initial Communication Element for secure and unsecure networking.

"We reacted decisively and appropriately to our real-world situation," said 1st Lt. Matthew Borowski, 439th Airlift Control Flight officer. "These kinds of events prepare troops for real world situations," He said.

The unit used a mast from another hi-frequency system and adapted the connector to hold a UHF antenna.

"The way it's set up, we're able to receive about the same air-to-ground communication distance which is about 20 miles," said MSgt. Alexander Cotton, 439th ALCF communications supervisor.
ALCF Airmen provides experienced airlift personnel to manage, coordinate and control air mobility assets. They provide a capability for operating at locations where there is limited support and are self-sufficient and are able to sustain operations under bare-base conditions. The ALCF is also responsible for training Air Force and sister service units on how to move by air. They instruct over 400 units in preparing and loading their mobility equipment for air shipment.

"The exercise went really well; there were lessons learned," Lt. Col. Wesley Pangle, 512th ALCF director of operations, stated during the debrief. "This group worked through a real-world situation and because of their ingenuity, the entire exercise went on as if nothing had happened."

Reserve ALCF provides 45 percent of the Air Force capability to establish an air mobility command at a base where one never existed or expand the capabilities of an airfield to handle airlift. They have participated in every major real-world deployment involving Air Force strategic airlift forces in the past decade. They are the front line of command and control, carrying out the commander's orders and back channeling data to keep the mission flowing.

The next ALCF exercise is planned for early 2014.