JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST --
When it came to deploying scalable forces to reopen an air base in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Air Force knew just who to call: Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Group at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
Their short-notice deployment earlier this year enabled the reopening of Prince Sultan Air Base to establish air base operations as part of U.S. Central Command’s commitment to providing stability and security in the region.
Between June 15 and Sept. 13, the Contingency Response Wing helped lay the foundation and put into motion the operations of the 378th Air Expeditionary Group, who took the reins at the base in August. A small contingent of CRW personnel remained through the end of December to ensure the base infrastructure was firmly established to help the AEG accomplish the mission.
Their mission started when a pre-deployment team of contingency response Airmen arrived at PSAB to assess force size and equipment requirements to begin air base opening operations. A week later, the main body of the 621st CRG personnel were on the ground and ready to provide air mobility operational support.
Devil Raiders began servicing the first fighter aircraft on June 24, and continued to support aircraft arriving and departing PSAB including the C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, C-5M Super Galaxy and commercial aircraft during their time there. Airmen off-loaded and on-loaded over 1,000 passengers and 4,800 short tons of cargo and supported nearly 200 sorties through the completion of their mission Sept. 13.
Air Mobility Command’s Global Air Mobility Support System played an important role in beginning air base operations at PSAB, ensuring en-route and contingency response forces, infrastructure and equipment were equipped to support mobility systems.
Devil Raiders received aircraft carrying Patriot missiles on July 2 that were off-loaded and set up by U.S. Army personnel. This signified a major milestone in defending U.S. and partner forces while deterring Iranian aggression through defense posture.
CR forces began reducing their footprint on July 31 and transitioned follow-on sustainment on Aug. 2 to the 378th Air Expeditionary Group, who began generating combat airpower by executing a variety of capabilities to include flying strategic bombers and fifth generation stealth fighters.
Within 90 days, the once bare base became a critical hub home to more than 1,000 service members.
By the end of October, the base encompassed hundreds of facilities, including a field hospital, dining facility, gym, Base Exchange, post office, and morale tent as well as over 350 tents for service members to live in.
“The opportunity for the CRW to support the U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Saudi Arabia by reestablishing U.S. operations at Prince Sultan Air Base displayed our ability to execute our mission to advise, direct and project airpower…anytime, anywhere,” said Col. James Hall, 621st Contingency Response Wing vice commander and air base opening group commander.
Devil Raiders worked closely with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, rebuilding a working partnership since U.S. forces ended operations there in 2003.
“We were the first boots on the ground to reestablish joint operations and relationships with Prince Sultan Air Base and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Lt. Col. Shane Hughes, 621st Contingency Response Support Squadron commander and CR element commander. “They were gracious hosts and very enthusiastic about renewing that relationship.”
Mobility Airmen mentor, advise and instruct partner nations’ air forces, enabling continued relations and shared costs and responsibilities when it comes to military operations within and near national boundaries.
Devil Raiders routinely deploy scalable forces that open, operate and close airfields, but not all air base operations are the same. Devil Raiders train using a variety of scenarios and are experts within their fields.
“If you’ve seen one air base opening, you have seen one air base opening, because every single one of them is different,” Hughes said. “We train to create Airmen that are cross functional and adaptable to any situation, and this mission gave us the opportunity to practice that.”
The 621st CRW’s unique structure allows it to respond to any contingency and deploy with all personnel, equipment and supplies necessary to execute the mission. Core capabilities include control functions, communications, aerial port, and aircraft maintenance that can be tailored to support contingency requirements. Devil Raiders provided maintenance support and expedited processes alongside KSA partners during this mission.
“We brought each other back up to speed, teaching changes to our processes over the past 16 years which was really huge to the success of our operation,” said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Welter, 621st Contingency Response Squadron maintenance flight craftsman and CR maintenance lead.
This deployment was the first air base opening for Hughes, who plans to incorporate lessons learned into the wing’s Tactics, Techniques and Procedures manual.
“We have a TTP that provides a guideline of things to consider when conducting air base operations,” Hughes said. “What we did was took a lot of input from this deployment, and we are going to incorporate that into the next round so that we are developing exercises and training for the next generation of Airmen to consider some of the things we learned the hard way.”
This mission provided the 621st CRW with the opportunity to support Saudi Arabia’s critical infrastructure and remain a key partner in defense of safety and stability in the region.
“U.S. Transportation Command, Air Mobility Command and the CRW are committed to providing U.S. leaders the options for deterring adversaries by projecting forces at a time and place of our nation’s choosing,” Hall said. “Prince Sultan Air Base was a perfect example of the readiness of the CRW. Our ability to launch at a moment’s notice ensured a timing and tempo to establish airfield operations which directly contributed to the build-up and operations ongoing still to this day in Saudi Arabia.”