Resolute Sentinel 2022: Joint training for Flying Jennies, Port Dawgs

  • Published
  • By Jessica L. Kendziorek
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

Members of the 815th Airlift Squadron, 803rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the 41st Aerial Port Squadron from Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, traveled to Guatemala to participate in Resolute Sentinel 2022, June 4- 24.

Resolute Sentinel is a 12th Air Force-led U.S. Southern Command exercise that provides joint training and improved readiness of United States and partner nations through humanitarian assistance activities, while integrating combat interoperability and disaster response training.

“This was a great opportunity to get more airdrop and AE (aeromedical evacuation) experience, which are some of the mainstays in our career field,” said Capt. Zachary Underwood, 815th AS pilot. “Any chance we get to do this in an unfamiliar environment and work with multi-national partners to get that cross training in a different terrain is beneficial.”

And a different terrain it is; Guatemala is a country of mountains, volcanoes, three of which are still active, and beaches on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, with Guatemala City located at approximately 4,800 feet above sea level, whereas Keesler is 20 feet above sea level and located along on the beach.

Flying that terrain was important as the 815th AS provided airdrop for both static line and high altitude, low opening, or HALO, jumps for both the U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group and the Guatemalan Special Forces.

“We worked with the 7th SPG and our allied partners to get over 300 jumpers qualified while we were participating in Resolute Sentinel,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Townsley, 815th AS loadmaster.

Townsley recommended other loadmasters participate in Resolute Sentinel to gain experience working hand-in-hand with other nations and the opportunity to work with the 433rd Contingency Response Flight.

The 433rd CRF worked as the coordinators for everything that was needed between operations, maintenance, and the user. This event included movement of equipment and passengers, which members of both the 815th AS and the 41st APS handled.

“Being able to build load plans on site and give our input on how it should look was different and a valuable training experience,” said Townsley.

Staff Sgt. Alton McGrew, 41st APS air transportation specialist and rigger, said that he felt the same way.

“Being in a contingent environment we had to learn to be flexible, because we didn’t always have everything at our disposal,” said McGrew. “For example, we didn’t always have a printer, so we had to use our tablets and work side-by-side with the loadmasters on the load plans to get the mission done.”

For the Aerial Port section, being flexible was important because, while at home station, each 41st APS member has a specific job to do, whether it’s working passenger transportation section, cargo, special handling, or being a rigger like McGrew.

“I definitely say that this is a great opportunity for new people to see what it is like in a real world contingent environment,” said McGrew. “You are doing every function, every section of the aerial port and you get to see how the puzzle comes together.”

One part of that puzzle included one 41st APS special handler who put his skills to use by assisting with providing some of the humanitarian relief that Resolute Sentinel is known for. Special handlers inspect cargo for aircraft worthiness, safety of flight, and meet Customs and Border Patrol regulations.

That special handler, Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Willig, had the opportunity to help unload firetrucks that the United States donated to the Guatemalan fire department.

“It was really neat to support that humanitarian mission, to help deal with the issues that arise from the active volcanoes in the area,” said Willig. “It was a great team to work with out there, a lot of professionals that are really good at their job and I was glad to be part of that.”

At the end of their tour, the members from the 403rd Wing left the multi-national training opportunity having benefitted from the real-world experience of conducting operations in a foreign country.

“It was interesting to see how everyone operates and trains the same from a coalition standpoint,” said Underwood. “Plus it was a great experience for the squadrons to get out and train in a different country and in a different environment.”