BEZMER AIR BASE, Bulgaria -- Approximately 80 Airmen assigned to the 321st Contingency Response Squadron Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, are deployed here in support of the exercise Saber Guardian July 14 to 25.
Saber Guardian is an annual multinational exercise held in the Black Sea region as part of the U.S. European Command Joint Exercise Program. The exercise reinforces deterrence measures agreed to by NATO at the Warsaw Summit in 2016, assures allies and partners of the enduring U.S. commitment to the collective defense and prosperity of the Black Sea region, and enables the alliance's command and control functions.
Similar operations will take place in the future all around Europe as the U.S and partnered nations improve their working relationship for the benefit of a stronger Europe.
The squadron deployed two contingency response elements to support the exercise. One team deployed to Bulgaria, while the other supported operations in Romania and Hungary.
The CRE consisted of 15 different job specialties who provided operational level planning expertise and C2 function capabilities to promote regional stability and security, while strengthening partner capacity and interoperability.
“Every CR Airman is not only trained in their own Air Force specialty, they are also trained cross-functionally and are able to seamlessly integrate into multiple facets of the operation,” said Capt. Andy Schnell, 321st CRS airfield operations officer. “This skillset, and more importantly the CR mindset, allows a small number of CR Airmen to accomplish what would normally take three to four times the number of personnel to accomplish.”
Staff Sgt. Emesh Fernando, 321st CRS air transportation supervisor, discussed some of the challenges his team faced during the exercise.
“Saber Guardian presented a few challenges due to us having to communicate and coordinate with our host nation counter-parts,” Fernando said. “We had to overcome the language barrier to enhance our mission readiness and efficiency to accomplish the training; patience was the key to ensuring our success.”
The CRE also conducted joint training with Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade based out of Vicenza, Italy, providing direct air-land support for safe and efficient airfield operations.
“We are providing an increased capability for the bravo echelon of the Joint Forcible Entry by the 173rd Airborne Brigade,” Schnell said. “Our presence enables the Army to quickly and safely offload armored vehicles, troops and additional equipment to augment the paradropped equipment.”
The 173rd performs a Joint Forcible Entry paradrop to seize and secure the airfield. Once the airfield is secured the bravo echelon, supported by the CRE, they begin to offload C-130s and C-17s delivering Strykers, equipment and additional troops to the field. From there the Soldiers secure key terrain to support the movement of 2nd Cavalry Regiment across the country.
Over 600 paratroopers were deployed to provide initial logistical support for follow on missions.
Joint and Combined environments are a common operating environment for CR Airmen during real-world missions and having the experience and skills to integrate with both Army and partner nations gained during Saber Guardian invaluable for future operations.
“The professionalism and job skill displayed by all the team members should make everyone back home in the 621st Contingency Response Wing proud, they showed that CR Airmen are truly a different breed and can make the mission happen no matter the challenges or conditions,” Schnell said.