LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -The joint readiness training exercise known as Swamp Devil is one of the United States Aire Force’s largest training exercises.
This week, members from the 621st Contingency Response Group and 621st Air Mobility Advisory Group are scheduled to deploy to various locations across Louisiana and Mississippi to participate in the mission.
Air Force Commanders say this particular training mission is vital every year, in the event of a natural disaster. However this year there’s an added pressure due to the current health crisis.
“We take that very seriously, even in years past, we always deploy with a medical team when it’s a real-world deployment,” said MSG. Ryan Fowler. “When everyone comes on shift they get temperature checks and we make sure they’re not exhibiting any signs of Covid-19.”
Tuesday’s exercise included transporting cargo, dirt landing zone operations, and heavy load training...skills that the U.S Air Force can usually tackle in a moment’s notice...
“In response to everything that’s going on...say another Hurricane Katrina passes through, with this type of environment...trying to figure out what all we can do while trying to maintain social distancing and everything else is very important,” Fowler said.
The week’s long exercise will test the CR forces’ ability to respond to a Category 4 hurricane and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as part of a joint task force. Exercise Swamp Devil will facilitate upgrade, joint, and interagency training in preparation for hurricane season while also serving to identify and mitigate risks to the mission and forces associated with operating in a COVID-19 environment.
“This is an unparalleled opportunity to build relationships with local civil authorities, train for a number of potential natural disasters, and validate mitigation procedures to keep Airmen and the community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Col. Gregory Cyrus, 621st CRG commander.
As Air Mobility Command’s 911 force, the 621st CRW provides humanitarian assistance to Americans and partner nations alongside joint partners, civil authorities, and host nation governments. Exercises like Swamp Devil are essential for maintaining Airmen proficiency and preparing Airmen to conduct operations in uncertain environments.
Aircraft expected to participate in the exercise include the C-17 Globemaster III, C-130J SuperHercules, and C-5 Super Galaxy.
“We wanted to make sure that this exercise was a realistic scenario that our unit would encounter,” said Capt. Daniel Staunton, 621st CRG chief of group training. “Which is why we chose hurricane relief support on both a state location and a fictional location in another country.”
Chennault International Airport Executive Director Kevin Melton says being able to provide resources for the U.S. Air Force showcases that Chennault is ready for any type of natural disaster.
“These types of exercises are incredibly important,” Melton said. “So, waiting for an event whether it’s man-made or natural to occur is too late. Chennault played a big piece in hurricane evacuation operations several years ago. We’ve maintained that capability and we still have that capability today.”
Exercise participants include the 34th Combat Training Squadron, Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, Louisiana, and various flying units within AMC and others.
Training will wrap ut at Chennault on Saturday.