DUKE FIELD, Fla. --
Citizen Air Commandos from the 919th Special Operations Wing joined Citizen Airmen from 11 other installations at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin earlier this month to support Patriot Warrior 2021.
Patriot Warrior is Air Force Reserve Command's premier field training exercise and provides an opportunity for Reserve Citizen Airmen to train with joint and international partners in airlift, aeromedical evacuation and mobility support. The exercise is intended to test the ability of the Air Force Reserve to provide combat-ready forces to operate in dynamic, contested environments and to sharpen Citizen Airmen's skills in supporting combatant commander requirements.
“Patriot Warrior provided all 12 bases that participated an opportunity to discover areas for improvement in their deployment processing lines,” said Col. Scott Stewart, 919th Special Operations Group commander and Patriot Warrior liaison officer with the Army's 78th Infantry Division. “Scheduling airlift, palletizing equipment, and conducting accountability checks are all forgettable skills, but critical skills to have when preparing to deploy.”
At the beginning of the exercise, severe weather (including a tornado) required Reservists from Duke Field to adjust and demonstrate their flexibility.
“After the tornado, some of our equipment got [damaged] and we really stepped up the teamwork at that point,” said Master Sgt. Gary Oaks, 919th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron and Patriot Warrior structures NCO in charge. “We had to go tear tents down that were unsafe, rebuild new tents and stake everything out.”
Many of the tents were already set up when Airmen from the 919th SOCES arrived. The damage caused by the tornado gave Airmen the opportunity to have more hands on training with the new tent systems that some had not assembled previously.
“I have a lot of younger troops that have not deployed yet so I wanted to take them,” said Oaks. “It was good for them to see how other units work together and how, when you work in a group like, that continuity comes together really quick. By the second or third day everyone was [treating each other] like family and it was a pretty cool thing to see.”
Airmen from the 919th Special Operations Force Support Squadron provided meals for the almost 250 participants from the Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen they brought to Patriot Warrior. They coordinated the food operations before the exercise began and worked with Airmen from other units to provide hot meals for breakfast and dinner. They also provided meals, ready to eat for lunch for the exercise participants.
“The exercise let the Airmen see real-world challenges,” said Master Sgt. Jason Wilson, the 919th SOFSS dining facility manager and Patriot Warrior team lead for food services. “Now the Airmen know for future reference what could happen because they have been through it before.”
The 919th SOW transported and managed a portable armory with M16 rifles throughout the exercise and were the sole provider for security forces support. Airmen from the 919th Special Operations Communications Squadron also participated and helped provide internet connectivity.
The training benefits of the exercise extended beyond Fort McCoy back to participants home stations as well. Before Airmen departed for Wisconsin, they had to complete all of the steps needed to go on a real deployment. This provided an opportunity for unit deployment managers, medical personnel, and other agencies to solidify their processes for mobilizing Airmen in support of a deployment.
“The Airmen really learned from this experience,” said Stewart. “As things came, up they pulled together and overcame several obstacles throughout the exercise. Not only did they enhance their readiness, but they also ensured the success of this year’s [Patriot Warrior] mission.”
The offices that supported the Airmen’s departure to Patriot Warrior also worked to ensure they had sound processes for when Airmen returned to home station.
“Training is for lessons learned to find the good bad and ugly,” said Stewart. “We want to find out what worked well so we can improve it, but we also want to find out what did not work well so we can improve in those areas too.”