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Change is the only constant thing in life

Airmen from the 108th Contingency Response Group (CRG) and Soldiers from the  689th Rapid Port Opening Element, Fort Eustis, Va., take part on Eagle Flag 12-4 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., from Aug. 13-17. The exercise tests the 108th CRG’s ability to create and run a Joint Task Force-Port Opening under bare base conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen, 108th Wing Public Affairs)

Airmen from the 108th Contingency Response Group (CRG) and Soldiers from the 689th Rapid Port Opening Element, Fort Eustis, Va., take part on Eagle Flag 12-4 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., from Aug. 13-17. The exercise tests the 108th CRG’s ability to create and run a Joint Task Force-Port Opening under bare base conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen, 108th Wing Public Affairs)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST -- Imagine working tirelessly day and night towards a goal, a goal that you've been looking forward to all year. Only to find out that it's no longer happening. Unfortunately, this was the case for the 108th Contingency Response Group. On July 1, 2015, the CRG mission was no longer a part of the 108th Wing.

The 108th CRG started to come together in 2007 and officially started in January 2008. They were responsible for training and rapidly deploying personnel to open airfields in remote locations and extend Air Mobility Command's ability to deploy people and equipment around the globe. They were also utilized to provide quick reaction logistical support for humanitarian missions including man-made and natural disasters. Often called a "mini wing", members of the CRG represented a broad spectrum of specialties to include airfield security, ramp and cargo operations, aircraft maintenance, and command and control.

"In a matter of three days, 112 people from multiple career specialties have to work together to turn a dirt strip into a fully operational air base that is capable of sustaining itself until support can come to expand on it," said Chief Master Sgt. Grieg Moore, the former 108th CRG Superintendent.

During the time the CRG was around, they accomplished many tasks and made their mark on the 108th Wing.

From 2009 to 2012, they supported and participated in four U.S. Transportation and Joint Task Force Port Opening Verification Exercises, also known as Eagle Flag. This operation was no small exercise and was directed by the Air Force Chief of Staff. It gave U.S. forces the environment to exercise their knowledge for any type of forward operation, regardless of mission or aircraft type.

In 2011, the 108th CRG managed to set a new cargo movement record that beat their active duty counterparts. They managed to effectively and efficiently move 2.5 million pounds of cargo. Furthermore, that year, the 108th CRG conducted the first ever Air Force airfield survey of Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to ensure the airport was capable of supporting both commercial and military aircraft.

In addition, in 2012, CRG Airmen helped set up shelters at Monmouth University in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. The CRG and other 108th Wing Airmen ran a small city that supported more than 2,000 displaced people from surrounding towns after the hurricane.

Also, in 2013 and 2014, the 108th CRG was essential to the success of the Patriot exercise at Camp Douglas in Wisconsin. The exercise was the National Guard's first ever Joint National Training Capability that contributed to the movement and support of more than 2,000 Soldiers and Airmen from 26 states, as well as state and local first responders.

On August 2013, Lt. Col. Chris Houseworth took command of the CRG. "My goal as the new commander was to have the CRG pass the annual inspection to have Full Operating Capability," said Houseworth. "Within eight months, they were more than ready for the inspection in April."

A month before the inspection, Houseworth was informed the 108th CRG was standing down. "This was not an official notice, but my mindset switched from preparing for the inspection to how I can protect my people," said Houseworth. "It was a complete 180 turn."

From that day on, Houseworth focused on finding new positions for the 112 members of the CRG, figuring out what to do with all the equipment, and dealing with budget issues.

"Lots of phone calls were made and a lot of late nights were spent to ensure the future for my people," said Houseworth. "As the CRG commander, it is my job to protect my people. I did everything in my power to find new places for everyone to go."

On December 2014, the National Defense Authorization Act provided an official date of the CRG stand down: July 1, 2015. The CRG had to find a way to move its Airmen to new units by that date.

"There was a group of hard working individuals that kept the CRG together until the very end," said Houseworth. "They were: Lt. Col. Christian Lawlor, Lt. Col. Richard Friendlich, Chief Master Sgt. Grieg Moore, 1st Lt. Dominoe Strong, Staff Sgt. Ariel Hansen, Tech. Sgt. Matt Leinbach, Maj. Jason Neumann, Master Sgt. Thomas Paulin, Staff Sgt. Alex Swenda, Tech. Sgt. Rich Thomas, and Tech. Sgt. Colleen Flores."

"Without these individuals, the whole situation would have been a disaster," said Houseworth. "They kept the day to day operations going by always staying positive. They maintained a schedule while continuing to mentor Airmen and managing to keep morale up. No matter what, they never gave up on each other."

"The situation wasn't all bad," said Houseworth. "Four enlisted members had the opportunity to commission and become officers. Some temporary members got full time positions, others got to transfer units or cross train into different career fields, and a few got to retire."

"We worked as a close knit group until the end," said Moore. "We still had a big Christmas party at the end of the year as if nothing was changing."

"In the end, this was a good opportunity for the 108th Wing," said Houseworth. "The CRG going away is no one's fault. There were active duty units being cut, so there was no longer a need for ours in the Air National Guard."

"The members of the 108th CRG were the heart and soul of the Air National Guard," said Houseworth. "There aren't enough adjectives to describe the hard work and dedication they displayed through this whole situation. They never lost faith and will do an outstanding job in their new positions."