Contingency response airmen deploy to Haiti to support multinational security support mission

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Cassidy Fisher
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – 75 contingency response airmen staged out of Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina to forward deploy to Port-au-Prince, Haiti at the Toussaint Louverture Airport on a daily rotation to support the delivery of logistics support area cargo to aid the multinational security support (MSS) mission.

Airmen from the 321st Contingency Response Squadron spent the month of May staged in South Carolina, executing daily deployments to Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The focus of this operation was to deliver cargo for the living areas that are needed for the standup of the MSS.

“We were there to help enable the buildup of support areas for an international MSS mission and the reason they called on contingency response is because the contract forces that are there didn’t have the capabilities or qualifications to download some of the bigger cargo pieces,” Lt. Col. Matthew Elmore, 321st Contingency Response Squadron commander said.

Contingency response forces utilized an updated way of operating for this deployment. Normally, contingency response squadrons deploy as a contingency response element, or CRE, with around 106 personnel from about 42 career fields and move as one unit to open an airbase in an austere environment, create a fully operational airbase, execute the mission, then close the airbase. This specific mission allowed 321 CRS leadership flexibility on which career fields were necessary to accomplish the tasking while leaning on Joint Base Charleston’s assets in order to minimize the footprint on base and in Haiti.

“We’re conducting distributed operations where the leadership team and command and control stay back while we send small teams out to the deployed location,” Elmore said. “We’re used to having the control of the entire airbase which helps monitor safety and the movement of cargo. In this case, we’re working closely with the host nation to deconflict what we can and can’t do.”

This way of operating reflects the agile combat employment model where forces can come in, execute the mission, and get off the “x” before it becomes a targeting solution.

Operating in a different way brings new challenges that the squadron must overcome to execute the mission and forces the small teams to rely on their training and expertise when they’re at the deployed location. The airmen were able to train and advise the host-nation airfield operators in real time on how to marshal military aircraft and conduct safe ramp operations.

“Initially, the reports we got back highlighted marshalling concerns and use of nonstandard signals. So, our maintainers were able to sit down with them and pull up pictures - because of the language barrier – and show them what standard marshalling looks like. We saw improvement to the point where now they’re executing a complex marshalling plan with two marshallers to make sure everything is safe and we’re not putting any personnel at risk,” Elmore said.

The small teams consisted of 10-15 airmen led by either a master or technical sergeant. One team lead, Master Sgt. Jacob Dagney, the 321st Contingency Response Squadron Security Forces Flight Chief, utilized his security mindset and leaned on his training to achieve the mission on his rotations.

“A security mindset was the guiding force with my team,” Dagney said. “Because we did not ‘own’ the airfield like a traditional contingency response mission would entail, we had similar footprint with fewer personnel. This, in turn, required every member to not only perform their primary duties, but also play a heavier role in security of themselves and the rest of their team.”

Each operation opens the door to new and innovative ways to conduct maneuvers. This operation allowed contingency response forces to utilize new equipment that proved vital to the success of the mission. Given the dispersed operation and need for constant communication, the MPU5 radio was heavily relied upon. According to Persistent Systems, creator of the MPU5, the radio allows real-time situational awareness where teams can be accurately tracked and communications are transmitted back to leadership.

 Additionally, the teams used a Secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR) iPad, which enabled them and leadership to communicate on a secure line while being geographically separated.

Contingency response forces adapt and provide a multitude of capabilities at a moment’s notice while bringing order to chaos, Elmore emphasized.

“I learned that the CR will always get the mission done,” Dagney said. “Wherever there were gaps in security duties, port duties, airfield management duties, communications duties, etc., the gaps were filled by those available because of the ‘mission ready airman’ training inherent in our culture.”

The 621st Contingency Response Wing is a community of ready warriors. Built upon a culture-focused approach to strengthen the contingency response airmen and their families, pioneering and procuring advanced resources and joint integrated training events leaders need to win a future fight, and consistently preparing minds, hearts, and bodies to conquer the challenges of combat and life.