721st, 821st CRS support Exercise STORM FLAG, 82nd Airborne Division validation

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Scott Warner
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

It is 2024. The world as we know it is rapidly evolving. Advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence and even social media have disrupted the status quo. These technological developments are changing how we perceive and interact with the world around us, but in terms of warfighting, evolution is necessary and the absolute need for change has accelerated the speed of these advancements.

It is a race to the top.

We are now in the era of Great Power Competition.

Members assigned to the 721st and 821st Contingency Response Squadrons deployed to support Exercise STORM FLAG in Alexandria, Louisiana from March 3-16, which aligned itself with the U.S. Air Force’s effort to reoptimize for Great Power Competition (GPC).

The 14-day exercise focused on validating the 82nd Airborne Division on its ability to execute Joint Forcible Entry (JFE) while also focusing on GPC categories such as developing people, developing capabilities, generating readiness and projecting power to ensure supremacy across all warfighting domains.

“Exercise STORM FLAG is Air Mobility Command’s newest readiness exercise that focuses on integrating with the U.S. Army’s Joint Readiness Training Command to validate an Immediate Response Force’s capability to be placed within an upcoming alert deployment cycle,” Lt. Col. Giff Bloom, 721st CRS and Exercise STORM FLAG Contingency Response Element (CRE) commander said.

To ensure mission success, the 721st and 821st CRS was divided into two support teams: a 721st CRE and an 821st Contingency Response Team (CRT).

The main difference between the two teams is their size, with a CRE typically comprising of more than 100 military service members while a CRT only consists of roughly 20-25 military service members.

“Our top mission priority as a CRE and as a CRT was to support the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division certification as an IRF by ensuring cargo and personnel transportation was moved to a forward operating location during a JFE deployment scenario,” Bloom said.

Furthermore, this exercise covered Joint Publication (JP) 3-18: Joint Forcible Entry Operations doctrine, which was used to evaluate how a joint force should operate a designated area in the face of armed opposition.

According to Bloom, while at Alexandria International Airfield, the airfield operations oversaw 19 aircraft at one point, which was the most aircraft ever present at this airport for an exercise. In detail, it had nine C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, seven C-130 Hercules aircraft, two Swedish C-130 aircraft and one Brazilian Embraer C-390 Millenium aircraft.

“Exercises like these are how we build multilateral capacity with partner and allied nations,” Bloom said. “This one in particular is of historical significance as it is one of the first exercises that Sweden has participated in as a NATO ally with the United States.”

According to a CNN article Sweden officially joins NATO, becoming alliance’s 32nd member, Sweden officially joined NATO on March 7, 2024.

During the exercise, U.S. and Swedish military service members celebrated Sweden’s official NATO designation from being a partner nation to becoming an ally nation. 

“It was my first time working with a foreign military service and I really enjoyed my experience and time working alongside the Swedish Air Force,” Senior Airman Chris Gonzalez, 721st CRS security forces operation and training specialist, emphasized. “They were extremely professional and courteous, and we really got after the mission together.”

Beyond the 721st and 821st CRS, USAF military service members with the 317th Airlift Wing and 43rd Air Mobility Operations Group also contributed Airmen and assets in support of the 82nd Airborne Division’s JFE validation.

“Storm Flag provides an effective exercise platform for joint partners to plan and execute a complex mission. The ability to train with international partners and allies allows us to share tactics, techniques and procedures to better integrate operations in the future,” Lt. Col. Dave Mackintosh, 40th Airlift Squadron director of operations said.

Additionally, Exercise STORM FLAG utilized AMC’s Agile Combat Employment (ACE) operations, which optimizes maneuvering to generate combat air power to further support Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. David Allvin’s focus on Great Power Competition.

USAF reoptimizing for GPC to meet the evolving challenges of today’s warfighting domains is not an easy task, it is not a change that can be made overnight, but it is adding fuel to sustain the fire to remain as the best Air Force this world has ever seen.