Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. --
Airmen assigned to the 621st Contingency Response Group spent four days training with and working alongside Airmen from the West Virginia Air National Guard Aug. 20-23 in Charleston, West Virginia.
The three-day training at the Camp Branch Landing Zone enabled the 621st CRG Airmen to increase their capability to establish safe landing zone and drop zones for incoming aircraft missions. The Airmen also performed dynamic cone penetrometer tests to determine how many passes a C-130 Hercules can safely make on a semi-prepared runway.
“By augmenting and assisting the 130th [ANG], we were able to gain a better understanding of how to run a landing zone in an austere environment while giving the [Air National] Guard a chance to focus more on flying,” said Maj. Thomas Leyden, a contingency response element commander with the 321st Contingency Response Squadron.
Camp Branch was previously a strip mine for 15 years before it was repurposed as a landing zone operated by the 130th ANG. The dirt air strip is situated on top of a mountain that provides C-130 units from surrounding states an opportunity to practice semi-prepared runway operations landings on terrain that they would see in Afghanistan, Iraq and throughout Africa, Leyden said.
“Having units like the 621st CRG train here is beneficial to us because we get to do joint training with them and see how they operate, while helping them train for what they do,” said Senior Master Sgt. Paul Dolan, a C-130 Hercules loadmaster and air training venue coordinator for the 130th ANG. “Along with the training, they’re helping us by providing manpower to recover the air drops out here.”
The 621st CRG training team consisted of two engineers, three aerial porters, four air traffic controllers and four pilots.
Although he’s traveled with the 621st CRG many times, for Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Richardson, an aerial porter with the 321st CRS, this was the first time he’s trained in this environment.
“I’ve done a lot of training prior to coming to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and the CRG,” Richardson said. “But it’s been a long time, and getting this familiarization has been great.”
This was the third time the 621st CRG Airmen have trained at Camp Branch with their 130th ANG counterparts.
“The training we received was fantastic, and we look forward to continually working with and supporting the 130th ANG for years to come,” Leyden said.
The 621st CRG, along with the 821st CRG, provide the core cadre of expeditionary command and control, airlift and air refueling operations, aerial port, and aircraft maintenance personnel for deployment worldwide as mobility control teams and airfield assessment teams. They rapidly survey, assess and establish contingency air base lodgments and expand existing AMC support infrastructure worldwide.