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108th CRG tests its mettle with Eagle Flag

August 14, 2010 --  A category-three hurricane hits the United States coast, bringing with it strong winds and torrential rains. Through its path of destruction, homes are destroyed, power lines are knocked down, and the area is flooded. Because of this, people are displaced and left without basic needs. The governor declares a state of emergency and requests federal assistance, while at the same time activates the National Guard to provide humanitarian relief efforts. 

At first, the relief comes slow as the various state, local, and federal agencies coordinate the operation out of a local staging area. Consequently, people become disenchanted with the relief effort and they begin to riot, loot, and the area becomes total chaos. 

The scenario described above is similar to the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. But for members of the 108th Contingency Response Group out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., they were play scenarios during the Eagle Flag exercise held August 3 through August 7 at JB MDL.

The purpose of Eagle Flag is to train the 108th CRG to become fully operational capable in order to deploy into a foreign country or anywhere within the continental United States and join other personnel and elements to comprise a United States Air Force expeditionary group. Once at the location, the expeditionary group is tasked with a mission to open an air base and conducts air operations. After the expeditionary base is open and functional, the groups' mission can be in of support humanitarian, disaster relief, or combat operations.
 
The 108th CRG is basically a miniature wing, said the commander of the 108th CRG, Col. Robert D. Brazel, in reference to the 108th Wing. The 108th CRG falls under the 108th Wing's command when not on active duty.

There are 28 different Air Force specialty codes within a CRG, with such specialties as security forces, medical personnel, supply technicians, aircraft maintenance, aerial port, etc., playing a critical role in the function of the base.

A base in a box is what Master Sgt. Antonio Rubbo, the supply non-commissioned officer for the 108th CRG, called it.

Throughout the exercise, Airmen were tested on their capabilities to transport a landing craft onto the flight line and unload supplies critically needed for the relief effort. With the assistance of Army soldiers from the 773rd Transportation Company out of Fort Totten, N.Y., supplies were received and transported to transfer points operated by FEMA.
 
It was good to work with the Air Force, said Spc. Edwin Morales, a diesel mechanic at the 773rd TC. 

"I enjoyed working with the Airmen and got to see how hard they work getting the base ready for operations," said Morales. 

He enjoyed working as part of a team, said Senior Airman Samuel D. Bhaskar, an aerial port cargo personnel at the 108th CRG. 

In addition to this, "I learned to take the initiative and was able to take in some good training on the 10k forklift," said Bhaskar.

Furthermore, with the 60th Medical Group from Travis Air Force Base, Cal., manning a disaster aero medical staging facility on base, casualties from the simulated hurricane were transported here by local medical ambulances. The mannequins were then rushed into medical tents were they were stabilized and prepared for evacuation to local hospitals via military aircrafts.

Even though some of the patients were mannequins or role players during the exercise, the training was intense, said Staff Sergeant Juan Montoya, medical administrative personnel with the 60th MG.

"Definitely an emphasis on making the training real world," continued Montoya.

Not to be outdone during the exercise, security forces kept a 24-hour security mission around the base, ensuring that base personnel were able to function in their jobs without incidents. 

To test their mission readiness during this exercise, security forces were presented with several simulated scenarios such as media reporters canvassing the base, unauthorized personnel transporting victims onto base, local gang activities around the base, and the occasional attempt to breach the security by desperate locals.

Through the joint efforts of the military, local, state, and federal agencies order was brought out of chaos during the exercise. A job well done, said Brazel.