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High Rollers gain low-cost dirt strip experience with Global Medic exercise

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The Nevada Air Guard's 192nd Airlift Squadron and about 30 additional support Airmen from the 152nd Airlift Wing are augmenting the Air Force Reserve exercise Global Medic 2012 at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif. through the end of the month. Flight crews from Nevada have been flying to an unimproved dirt landing strip on the Army post, ferrying equipment, personnel and supplies for the exercise.

Global Medic is designed to train medical personnel to provide medical care while transporting casualties of war from the front lines to a rear area support hospital outside the theater. In this exercise, Reno is acting as the rear, and Fort Hunter Liggett the forward operating base.

Without a control tower or any navigation aids other than eyesight, Fort Hunter Liggett's 5,000 foot Schoonover dirt air strip is provides a special set of training opportunities for High Rollers of the 192nd.

"There is no tower or approach to the airstrip so you have to build your own approach to the runway within the airplane," said Capt. Evan Kirkwood, the chief of tactics for the 192nd. "The navigator has to calculate terrain, air speed and temperature, and from there he builds the approach. It's called non-flagpole training."

The Global Medic exercise also attempts to synchronize tactical operations in the context of a clinical scenario. For the Nevada Air Guard, it's saving money, too. Kirkwood said his unit normally must pay about $3,000 per day to train at Schoonover. Taking part in Global Medic means the unit has access to the austere runway free of charge.

Assault landings, short stops on short runways, can be hard on precision aircraft, but fortunately the unit's C-130 Hercules aircraft are well designed for that. "When we land we need to use the prop to help slow down because the brakes alone won't stop the aircraft in time," Kirkwood said. "The pilot reverses the angle of the propeller, reversing the direction the air moves. The result helps the airplane stop in shorter distances."

On the ground, it's up to the loadmaster and their crew to off-load cargo and personnel. They've got to think on their feet, too. Without prior knowledge of what's coming on board, they must quickly configure the aircraft for a return payload.

"The loadmasters have to figure out the balance to distribute the load properly and the engineers have to calculate how much we can load based on a number of factors including temperature and elevation at both landing sites," Kirkwood said. "The engine-running off-loads, which kick up a lot of dust and are accompanied by excessive noise, create a level of added stress, further challenging the crews."

Once loaded and balanced, the crew must get the aircraft airborne on the same short, dirt runway without the aid of a control tower to guide them. Getting in the air at Schoonover requires about 10 percent more power than flying out of Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Kirkwood said.

Thus far, the Nevada Air Guard has transported more than 140,000 pounds of cargo and about 140 personnel for the Global Medic exercise. This was done in 37.2 flight hours on about a dozen flights. At least one flight was done after dark at Schoonover to give the flight crew some training with night vision goggles.
"All of this flight training is crucial because that's what we get in the desert (in Afghanistan)." Kirkwood said.

The Nevada Air Guard wasn't originally set to participate this much in Global Medic, but was asked to fill in when another unit's aircraft couldn't participate. The unit agrees, though, that it's been valuable training.

"(This level of exercise) would have consumed a great deal of resources to plan and conduct similar training on our own," Kirkwood said.

He said the squadron had to rearrange scheduled flight training to exploit the opportunity the exercise presented. "We have managed to qualify three new aircrews on the dirt runway," Kirkwood said. "Two navigators have also been trained in preparation for their deployment."

Reno was chosen as the hub for the exercise this year and about 200 service members have traveled though the city, some moving right on through, others staying in local hotels for a night or two. About 60 are operating from the Nevada Air Guard Base in Reno and staying the entire time in local hotels.

The Nevada Air National Guard allowed Air Force Reserve personnel to utilize most of the small air terminal section of the 152nd Logistics Readiness Squadron at the Air Guard base for the exercise.

Master Sgt. Chris Rice, an aerial port superintendent of the 50th Aerial Port Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif, said the Nevada Air Guard has been extremely helpful in providing everything his unit has asked for.