Total Force Readiness With Palmetto Challenge
by U.S. Air Force Airman Gage Rodriguez
Airmen from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, participated
in the Palmetto Challenge, a global mobilization exercise, at
McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., and Pope Army Airfield,
North Carolina, November 16-20, 2020.
gives Airmen the ability to experience a simulated deployment that
includes different real-world situations ranging from simulated gas
attacks and Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) readiness, to
security forces arming a Mobile Anti-Drone Systems Kit.
Defenders assigned to the
U.S. Air Force 628th Security Forces Squadron conduct training on a Mobile Anti-Drone Systems Kit (MADS-K) at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, SC
on Nov. 16, 2020. Palmetto Challenge is a global mobilization exercise held at McEntire
Joint National Guard Base, SC and Pope Army Airfield, NC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Gage R. Rodriguez)
“Palmetto Challenge is an exercise we do at Joint Base Charleston
that involves total force, 628th Airbase Wing, 437th Airlift Wing,
and also the 315th Reserve unit,” said Lt. Col Lee Holfert, 628 MSG
deputy commander. “ we work together as a team, to exercise our
readiness and to make sure our readiness is polished up and ready to
go if ever needed.”
Chad Hashley, chief of exercise plans
for the 628th Air Base Wing Inspector General office, oversees
planning and execution of exercises that occur during the week-long
“The overall purpose of Palmetto
Challenge is to make sure that we’re still concentrating our efforts
on our readiness, as a base, and overall Air Force,” said Hashley.
“Now that we’re coming into a lull of war where we are not doing as
much deploying as we have in the past, we need to make sure that
we’re still maintaining that same level of readiness for the next
war that comes.”
Rapid response and overall readiness is key
to a deadly air power. Palmetto Challenge allows the Wing Inspection
Team (WIT) to inspect and grade the preparedness of all Airmen
involved in each scenario.
“This gives us the opportunity to
evaluate their capabilities, but also to learn and keep their
training up,” said Hashley.
Many situations would require
the cooperation between multiple units including Security Forces,
Explosive Ordnance Disposal, the Crisis Action Team, and many other
mission essential units. The benefits Airmen receive from this
experience allow senior leaders from the WIT team to critique and
help develop Airmen during each real world scenario.
U.S. Air Force Col. Marc Greene, the 628th Air Base Wing commander, talked to Airmen about the importance of maintaining full-spectrum readiness and training at McEntire
Joint National Guard Base, SC on Nov. 16, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Gage R. Rodriguez)
Preparation for Palmetto Challenge comes with a lot
of planning and objectives that need to be met to ensure that Joint
Base Charleston as a base is as ready as possible.
“It starts out with a
concept and objective meeting where you’re basically getting the
information from the commander and identifying what their intent is
and what needs to be tested,” said Hashley.
regular training promotes readiness and awareness, and the ability
to train consistently allows the Airmen to sharpen their skills and
remain prepared for any real-world situation.
deploying to the same environments that we used to, so you have
Airmen that may never get a chance to see what we have done or what
we’re preparing to do,” said Hashley. “Whether it be at war or at
peace, we are always ready for that next big thing to come around.”
Col. Bobby DeGregorio, 315th Airlift Wing Support Group
Commander and a Senior Palmetto Challenge leader, described the
importance of planning and how much of a team effort it was.
“This is the first time in a long time that the players planned
all the logistics of the exercise and because of that it has been
much smoother than previous,” said DeGregorio. “You could feel the
positive energy from all because many had ownership in making it
During the exercise DeGregorio had polled the
Airmen that attended this training and found that 40% had never
taken part in an exercise before.
“This is a huge first step
for members to really get a feel for why they wear the uniform,”
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