Three members from the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 133rd Contingency Response Team traveled to the West Pacific to support an exercise called COPE NORTH. COPE NORTH is an annual multinational exercise where units conduct an Air Base Opening of remote landing zones on the islands throughout the region to facilitate the movement of cargo and passengers across the theater.
During the exercise, the Contingency Response Team supported various aircraft from all participating nations, including Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The teams also participated in an engine running off-load mission and wet-wing defueling at the landing zone.
“Working with aircraft from so many countries has been an incredible experience,” comments U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Micheal Schuette, Air Transportation Specialists for the 133rd Contingency Response Team. “Working with the members from each nation has allowed me to see how each unit tackles the same mission.”
A challenging aspect of working at a remote location was the degraded conditions. Their ability to work under these conditions is at the core of the Contingency Response Teams. By taking part in the exercise, the teams were forced to think outside the box and work together for all their needs.
“Living and working in an environment without electricity, running water, shelter, or infrastructure presents many challenges,” remarked U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kevin Hedlund, Airfield Manager for the 133rd Contingency Response Team. “You don’t realize what a crutch easy communication has become until you no longer have it.”
Despite the challenging conditions, the exercise allowed the members to utilize their training and successfully set up air base operations far from home.
“The chance to open and sustain a remote landing zone on an island in the Pacific was an incredible training opportunity,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jason Christensen, Commander of the 133rd Contingency Response Team. “COPE NORTH allowed our team to see the challenges we may face when working in such an austere environment like this.”