Expeditionary Basing Contingency Response Group Style


We have visited the USAF’s Contingency Response Group at Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakenhurst, New Jersey and have discussed CRG operations in the Pacific with the CRG wing which operates from Anderson Air Base.

The CRG concept is designed to operate combat air capabilities from austere basing, or disrupted basing in as the name suggest contingencies.

There is now a broader challenge of rethinking more generally how to to operate USAF assets in a more mobile or expeditionary manner.

This past month the USAF worked “Exercise Agile Wolf” in Germany to test out skills and capabilities.

As Airman 1st Class Alison Stewart, 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs wrote in an article published by the USAF on June 2, 2020:

Airmen at the 52nd Fighter Wing partnered with the 435th Contingency Response Squadron during an Agile Combat Employment exercise on May 28 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

This ACE exercise was in conjunction with exercise Agile Wolf, and focused on “hot-pit refueling”, or the ability to refuel an F-16 Fighting Falcon in a fast paced environment without shutting off the aircraft’s engine.

The 52nd FW brought two of their aircraft to Ramstein AB, along with quality assurance and maintenance Airmen, to observe as Airmen from the 435th CRS, who normally refuel larger aircraft, tested their skills learned from training during the exercise.

“Exercise Agile Wolf is an exercise that the Contingency Response Group is conducting,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jayce England, 52nd FW superintendent, wing plans and programs. “We wanted to observe them cross-pollinate the aircraft, so we had C-130 guys refueling the F-16.”

In a normal setting, Airmen at Ramstein Air Base would rarely see F-16’s come through on their flightline.

It is important to exercise ACE frequently, so that Airmen are prepared to operate with a smaller, more flexible footprint.

“We need to remain agile,” said England. “It’s like a muscle memory. You want to do it routinely so that if we are called upon to execute this mission, we don’t think about it, we just go out and execute it.”

Many facets of ACE will continue in the coming weeks.

“A lot of these skills are expeditionary skills, and we try to develop multi-capable Airmen,” said Maj. William Tompkins, 52nd Operations Support Squadron senior intelligence officer. “It’s important to develop those skills not only for Spangdahlem, but for Ramstein and all of United States Air Forces in Europe as well.”

An earlier USAF article published on January 6, 2020 described how the USAF started the process late last year:

The 435th Contingency Response Squadron and 37th Airlift Squadron tested their port, maintenance and command and control functions during the first ever, Exercise Agile Wolf at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Dec. 17-18.

The exercise was designed to enhance the 435th CRS’s ability to coordinate and operate mobility operations with the 37th AS in a semi-permissive environment. Since the only thing that separates the two squadrons is Ramstein’s flight line, the 435th CRS went to the other side and they both got to work.

The 435th CRS command and control function paired with the air terminal operations center kicked-off operations on the ramp. Nearly a third of the 435th CRS worked seamlessly with the 37th AS for two 16-hour days. Maintainers prepared four C-130J Super Hercules aircraft while aircrew worked with mobile aerial porters to load small cargo pallets for airdrops and combat offloads.

“We are in a resource constrained Air Force and we’re always trying to do more with less,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Brad Seehawer, 435th CRS assistant operations officer. “We are doing this exercise to show that we can train our members without having to fly them across the continent or back to the United States.” 

To maximize training opportunity and current operations, Airmen rotated from the squadrons to the exercise location. The rotation allowed Airmen from the two squadrons to get familiar with each other since they would be working together in a deployed location.

“This is the first time we’ve done exercises on Ramstein with the 37th Airlift Squadron,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt Deven Kauppi, 435th Contingency Response Squadron mobile aerial porter. “We usually go out with them to various countries like Romania, Poland or Bulgaria to conduct training.”

The exercise saved the Air Force thousands of dollars because it was on their home installation. The location reduced additional flight hours and personnel travel required to conduct an extensive training like Agile Wolf.

“Working alongside our partner nations is extremely important, so there’s incredible value in honing our skills in our backyard first, to add even more value to our effectiveness in the European area of operation,” Seehawer said.

Exercise Agile Wolf is planned to occur every quarter to further strengthen the 435th and 37th missions; to provide the region’s only airlift, airdrop, and aeromedical evacuation operations capability and provide professional airlift to any country, any time.