California National Guard assists in NEXUS RISING exercise

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Amy Hansen, 349th AMW Public Affairs
  • 349th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Alarms sounded, airplanes launched, and medics triaged patients with mock injuries for aeromedical evacuation at Travis Air Force Base and Moffett Federal Airfield, during Exercise Nexus Rising June 4-6.  The joint readiness exercise was a collaboration between Air Force Reserve units from the 349th Air Mobility Wing and California National Guard members from the 129th Rescue Wing and the 49th Military Police Brigade, and was designed to challenge participants with realistic combat scenarios for training purposes.

The exercise events combined a variety of joint Air Force and National Guard missions, including cargo and passenger airlift, aerial refueling, deployment processing, aerial port operations, command and control, and aeromedical staging and evacuation.

“Exercises like this give us a platform to determine if we are ready for war, and how successfully we can accomplish our wing’s mission,” said Lt. Col. Gerard Guevara, 349 AMW Director of Inspector General Inspections.

Guevara added that it was important to include partners in the California National Guard to increase the realism and the functionality of the evaluation, and also to nurture long-term working relationships with the wing’s California partners.

Planning for the exercise began earlier this year when the IGI team selected about 20 subject matter experts from squadrons across the 2,600-member wing to serve as exercise planners. The team was tasked with planning and designing realistic scenarios that would test how well the wing’s Reserve Citizen Airmen can perform their jobs in a simulated combat environment.

A significant component of the exercise was carried out by 349th Medical Group members, whose war-time job is to process, treat, and potentially evacuate injured troops, said Tech. Sgt. Alyssa Yarbrough, 349th Aerospace Medicine Squadron surgical technician. 

“You’re seeing what happens, from getting blown up, to going to the hospital and everything that is happening on that spectrum,” said Yarbrough. “In a deployed environment, you may not have the medical supplies you typically would in your regular medical treatment facility, so you may need to improvise things.” 

For reservists, who often have full-time civilian jobs, the opportunity to practice working in the field in combat conditions is invaluable.

“I feel like as reservists, we’re there to jump in at any time, so our readiness has to be super on-par, and this is what makes us ready—practicing all the things that we need to be able to do to take on any fight and win,” said Capt. Erin McIlvaine, a nurse with the 349th Aeromedical Staging Squadron.

Senior Airman Cai Yang, also assigned to the 349th ASTS, agreed that the exercise experience improved his readiness, which is more difficult to maintain when compared to his active duty counterparts.

“As a reservist, you don’t generally get the opportunity to do what you do in the Air Force,” Yang said. “We are only here two days a month, and so being in a training environment allows me to immerse myself in what I’m supposed to be doing in a deployed environment.”

Senior Airman Kristie DeJesus, 82nd Aerial Port Squadron cargo processor, volunteered to participate in the exercise to improve her job skills, such as serving on a joint inspection line that processed California Army National Guard vehicles and equipment that was later loaded onto a C-5M Super Galaxy and deployed to Moffett.

“I had never ‘JIed’ (Joint Inspected) a vehicle with eight wheels before, so that was a cool experience,” DeJesus said.

DeJesus added that the simulated combat scenarios helped her improve the speed at which she can get fully dressed in chemical warfare protective clothing and equipment, which she had previously only accomplished in a classroom setting.

Following the exercise, the inspection teams distilled their findings into strengths, recommended improvement areas and deficiencies. That information will be delivered to the IGI team, who will submit a comprehensive report to the wing commander.

“In any real world or training exercise, we have the good, bad and the ugly, said Guevara. “Our report gives the commander a roadmap for improving the wing’s ability to generate, sustain combat-ready Airmen.”

Another important post-exercise step will be the development of lessons learned, so that the 349th AMW and others can learn and improve from the exercise’s successes and failures.

“We know that we will get from exercises what we put into them,” said Guevara. “I’m incredibly humbled to see how well the players executed, and I’m blessed to be part of the planning team that put so much energy to devise as good a plan as we possibly could.”