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Exercise hones AFSOC's disaster response

by Capt. Kristen D. Duncan
Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

5/16/2011 - HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- Responding to a simulated natural disaster, 16 special-tactics Airmen steered their parachutes toward the training range here May 11. Their primary mission: open the devastated country's airfield.

Within minutes of jumping out of a 1st Special Operations Wing MC-130P Combat Shadow, the Airmen were providing air-traffic control to land the plane, which carried additional gear and essential support personnel.

"The unique thing Air Force Special Operations Command brings is the ability to rapidly launch a team with command-and-control capability, to establish a link back to higher headquarters and to open an airfield within minutes of arriving," said Col. Robert Armfield, the 720th Special Tactics Group commander.
"As we've seen in both Haiti and Japan, getting an airfield open is a critical first step toward recovering from a disaster," Colonel Armfield said."Opening an airfield enables the host nation to restore services back to their own people. The 720 STG and the 1st SOW in partnership wanted to make sure that we have captured all the lessons learned from recent disaster response and humanitarian assistance missions."

The exercise, Operation Nimble Response, was organized and directed by the 720th Operations Support Squadron director of operations, Maj. Mark McGill. Close to 50 personnel from 20 units within headquarters AFSOC, Air Mobility Command, 1st SOW and the Alabama Air National Guard's 280th Combat Communications Squadron, brought expertise from Operation Unified Response, in Haiti, and Operation Tomodachi, in Japan. Major McGill also coordinated with the U.S. Agency for International Development for exercise planning and training.

"Future exercises of this nature will continue to refine the capability of the AFSOC team to rapidly respond to a humanitarian crisis," Major McGill said.

The 720 STG plans to conduct another exercise in the fall.

"At the end of the day, we want to partner with the host nation and other U.S. government elements that are in-country to make them successful," Colonel Armfield said.



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