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The first in and the last out; Contingency Response Airmen help bring Exercise Air Defender 2023 participants home

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michelle Ulber
  • 146th Airlift Wing

WUNSTORF AIR BASE, WUNSTORF, GERMANY -- Exercise Air Defender 2023 (AD23) has come to a close; 108 members of the Air National Guard's Contingency Response (CR) career field assigned to the 123rd and 156th Contingency Response Groups and the 172nd and 146th Contingency Response Flights are helping to return over 10,000 AD23 personnel home and fly over 3.4 million pounds of cargo back to the United States.

"We're currently working on the redeployment back to the States," said 1st. Lt. Jerry Rodriguez, a logistics readiness officer with the 146th Airlift Wing. "We will bring everyone back from all the different bases here in Germany, reorganize their cargo off their C-130 aircraft, and reupload everything onto a C-17 aircraft. We'll oversee all the uploads and then send it back home."

Almost all the cargo and a considerable portion of the personnel must be processed through Wunstorf Air Base from Schleswig Air Base, Hohn Air Base, Kropp Air Base, and Lechfeld Air Base due to logistical issues landing C-17 aircraft at those installations.

"Wunstorf is the main hub that sends and receives cargo for exercise Air Defender 23," said Master Sgt. Jeff Allen, a loadmaster with the 146th Contingency Response Flight. "Last September, a few of us from the Contingency Response Groups went out and did site surveys and realized that some of the air bases in Germany were not suitable to land large aircraft on, so the larger aircraft have to land here at Wunstorf and then have their cargo loaded onto smaller aircraft so it can be dispersed to the other air bases."

With all that cargo coming through, it takes a lot of logistical planning to ensure it all arrives and departs as smoothly as possible and gets back home on time.

"Our battle rhythm is to figure out all of our logistics for this week, gather an overview of all the flight plans, then compile a list of all the outgoing cargo and our preliminary load plans," said Rodriguez. "Everything is coming back to us here at Wunstorf; it'll either be flown here on C-130 or line hauled in by trucks. When it arrives, we'll check the paperwork, weight, and dimensions to ensure it's safe for flight. After all that, we'll reload it and send everything back home."

Though the redeployment back to the U.S. has only just begun, many exercise participants have had only positive things to say about the CR team.

"I feel like CR is a great team to make exercises like this simplified," said Staff Sgt. Jada Meddley, a commander's support staff Airman with the 152nd Airlift Wing. "They come in, put everything together, and then take everything back out, doing all the heavy lifting. It takes a lot of the load off of everyone else. It's very helpful. I'm grateful that I was able to participate in this exercise and thankful to everyone in CR for working hard to get us home safely."