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107th Airlift Wing Airmen participate in Homeland Response Force exercise

  • Published
  • By Capt. Elaine Nowak and Senior Master Sgt. Raymond Lloyd
  • 107th Airlift Wing
About 30 Airmen from the 107th Airlift Wing participated in OPERATION NICKEL CITY, an exercise for New York National Guard troops here November 14 and 15.

The Homeland Response Force (HRF) exercise at the Erie County Emergency Services and Operations Training Center involved more than 375 Soldiers and Airmen from across New York State. The goal of the exercise was to improve the overall training and readiness status of responders following a Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN) incident.

The 107th Airmen mobilized for the event were from the Medical Group, Force Sustainment Flight and Communications Flight.

The Fatality Search and Recovery Team (FSRT) is comprised of Force Sustainment Flight members. Their mission is to safely recover human remains in a CBRN environment. This involves gearing up in a full body protective suit and gas mask. The group travels in teams of four when venturing into the field. For this exercise, they extracted dummies from various sites around the training center and then brought the simulated remains via stretcher to a decontamination center.

Staff Sgt. Heather Grimm, 107th Force Sustainment Flight, is the resident expert in FSRT and was present for the exercise. She has traveled around the country evaluating units as an Observe, Control and Training member, and has participated in 12 exercises in the last two years.

"I enjoy this work. I like to watch the new teams work closely together. I see them transition into a fully-capable team, prepared to run a real-world mission within a week," said Sgt. Grimm.

When disaster strikes there is a need for mobile communications. The 107th Airlift Wing's Communication Flight had the opportunity to demonstrate their readiness at the HRF exercise. They operated the Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC). This unit is capable of providing radio, phone and satellite communications to government agencies in the field.

"Our team has six Airmen assigned and we can maintain communications for a very extended time, if there was a real incident," said Chief Master Sgt. Dennis Pollow, 107th AW Communication Flight.

This was the first exercise the flight used their JISCC, a trailer that contains all of the necessary equipment for their mission, which was received in May.

"We have become very efficient at setting up this system. We practiced setting up and taking down the JISCC six times at our home base. This is the first time we are putting it to use in an exercise," said Senior Airman Bradley Owens.

The team operates in field condition so they supply their own power using a generator.  In an emergency response, there is often no commercial power available. For this exercise, the Airmen set up the satellite so the CBRN Task Force Operation Center had internet services.

"We can provide Wi-Fi to the entire incident area with our system," said Tech. Sgt. Brad Gildner, 107th Communication Flight.

The exercise gave the National Guard troops an opportunity to test their skills, equipment and training. Airmen and Soldiers came away with lessons learned and more confidence in their team. 

"In case of an emergency, we are trained and fully equipped to handle it," said Master Sgt. Timothy Gemsheim, Superintendent of 107th Force Sustainment Flight.

The exercise was the first of two collective training events being planned for the fiscal year. A full-scale exercise is scheduled for the spring in New Jersey.