86th Contingency Response Group
The 86th Contingency Response Group [CRG] from Ramstein AB, Germany, The 86th CRG is tasked with establishing airfield and aerial port operations and providing force protection at contingency airfields. The unit was activated at Hangar 3 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, 26 February 1999, and is the first unit of its kind in the Air Force. The two subordinate units -- the 86th Air Mobility and 786th Security Forces Squadrons -- were also stood up 26 February. The 86th CRG incorporates more than 30 different jobs into one close-knit team. It is a rapid-deployment unit designed at the initiative of Air Force leadership to be a "first-in" force to secure an airfield and establish and maintain airfield operations. The 86th CRG was created specifically to respond to the growing number of fast-moving contingency deployments today's Air Force experienced in Europe.
The group initially consisted of 134 individuals, which made it one of the smallest groups in the Air Force. Although typically tailored for a specific mission, the CRG is postured to deploy all or part of a 120-person team of more than 30 specialties with no more than 12 hours notice. The unit is on the ground during the crucial opening days of a contingency. The 86th CRG is designed to be a multidisciplinary, cross-functional team whose mission is to provide the first on-scene Air Force forces trained to command, assess, and prepare a base for expeditionary aerospace forces. The cross-functional design under a single commander provides a unity of effort while also minimizing redundant taskings or personnel. This in turn allows the unit to be trained to task and ready to deploy rapidly--all with minimal equipment and personnel.
The 786th Security Forces Squadron [786th SFS] is capable of overland airlift, air assault, or airborne insertion into crisis situations. The unit incorporates more than 10 different specialities including people with civil engineering, medical, intelligence, investigative, fuels, logistics, personnel and security skills.
Tier One personnel are not assigned to the CRG but are "by-name" assigned as CRG augmentees. These Tier One personnel work closely with the CRG on a daily basis, exercise with the group, and are trained in CRG-specific operations and force-protection concepts. Specialties in which Tier One individuals work include weather, air traffic control, services, communications, civil engineering, finance, law, combat camera, fire protection, protocol, combat control, psychological operations, civil-military affairs, personnel accounting, ground and flight safety, explosive-ordnance disposal, biological/chemical warfare, fuel, mortuary affairs, and chaplain concerns.
To complement these Tier One personnel, the CRG has access to Tier Two personnel. As within Tier One, Tier Two personnel come from units that work regularly with the CRG; however, they are not specifically identified as CRG augmentees, nor are they identified "by-name." The final category consists of personnel within existing UTCs that provide the specialized capabilities available through normal training channels.
The three-tier process generates functional experts in various readiness levels who can support a mission philosophy of speed and precision. The 86th CRG was designed to get in within hours of its tasking, take control of airfield operations, establish security and communication, and quickly assess what additional capability would be required.
The 86th CRG deployed to Tirana, Albania, April 4, 1999, as the lead element of the US Humanitarian Relief Force Shining/Sustain Hope to distribute rations and water. Operation Shining/Sustain Hope is the U.S. humanitarian effort to bring in food, water, medicine and relief supplies for the refugees fleeing from the Former Republic of Yugoslavia into Albania and Macedonia. US assistance began April 5, when an initial team of 40 airmen from the 86th Contingency Response Group left for Tirana. The team was sent in to establish a base camp near a Tirana airfield and prepare it for the rest of the relief force, which would flow in afterward. The 786th Security Forces Squadron security team joined colleagues from the 786th SFS and 86th Air Mobility Squadron members who were already in Albania as part of an 86th Contingency Response Group deployment to Tirana, Albania, supporting humanitarian operations to relieve Kosovar Albanian refugees in Albania. The 786th SFS provides force protection in the opening stages of a deployment and also provides protection for any follow-on forces. The 86th AMS provides airfield command and control, loads and unloads aircraft and essentially sets up an aerial port where none existed. This was the group's second contingency deployment. Besides the CRG, Ramstein also sent representatives from the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron, 86th Medical Group, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs, 86th Transportation Squadron, 86th Material Maintenance Squadron, 86th Security Forces Squadron, 86th Services Squadron, 86th Financial Management and the 786th Civil Engineer Squadron.
On the surface, the 86th Contingency Response Group appeared heavy and cumbersome with 36 team members and a bulky cargo of giant forklifts and flightline vehicles they brought to Beira, Mozambique here from their home station more than 5,000 miles away at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. By Air Force standards, however, the 86th CRG is lean, light and efficient. Within a few hours of touching down on the runway, the unit was handling airflow in support of Joint Task Force Atlas Response. The CRG, which belongs to the 86th Airlift Wing, handled every aspect of airflow into Beira, including parking the aircraft, loading and unloading cargo and passengers, and providing necessary aircraft maintenance. As of 24 March 2000, the CRG had handled 426 passengers and 514 tons of equipment and humanitarian relief supplies to aid the flood victims of Mozambique. The Department of Defense sent six search and rescue helicopters to the region, with three arriving early the second week of March. They were supported by 400 to 600 troops from the European Command's 86th Contingency Response Group, based in Germany and England.
Exercise Lariat Response, conducted June 8-12, 2001 in Hungary, required Southern European Task Force [SETAF] to deploy the 173d Airborne Brigade to conduct an airborne assault to seize an airfield, conduct rapid running airfield repair and then, with the support of the US Air Force's 86th Contingency Response Group, immediately air load heavy infantry combat forces from V Corps and the 1st Infantry Division to conduct high intensity combat operations against an armored threat.
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