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123rd CRG becomes first in Air Guard to earn verification for joint cargo-handling capability

An aerial porter from the New Jersey Air National Guard directs cargo from a C-17 aircraft to a cargo yard at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station, N.J., as part of Exercise Eagle Flag on March 28, 2012. More than 80 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed here March 26, joining forces with over than 50 active-duty Army troops and Air Guardsmen from New Jersey and Mississippi to establish a Joint Task Force-Port Opening. Inspectors from U.S. Transportation Command evaluated the performance of Kentucky's 123rd Contingency Response Group during the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

An aerial porter from the New Jersey Air National Guard directs cargo from a C-17 aircraft to a cargo yard at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station, N.J., as part of Exercise Eagle Flag on March 28, 2012. More than 80 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard deployed here March 26, joining forces with over than 50 active-duty Army troops and Air Guardsmen from New Jersey and Mississippi to establish a Joint Task Force-Port Opening. Inspectors from U.S. Transportation Command evaluated the performance of Kentucky's 123rd Contingency Response Group during the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Staff Sgt. Brian Leach, aerial port ramp supervisor for the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, pushes a pallet of cargo from a C-17 during Exercise Eagle Flag at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on March 28, 2012. The unit, from Louisville, Ky., joined forces with the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element from Fort Eustis, Va., to establish a Joint Task Force-Port Opening through March 30. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Staff Sgt. Brian Leach, aerial port ramp supervisor for the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, pushes a pallet of cargo from a C-17 during Exercise Eagle Flag at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on March 28, 2012. The unit, from Louisville, Ky., joined forces with the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element from Fort Eustis, Va., to establish a Joint Task Force-Port Opening through March 30. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Aerial port personnel from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group work in concert with Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element to off-load cargo from a U.S. Air Force C-17 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 28, 2012. The two units were tasked with setting up a Joint Task Force-Port Opening as part of Eagle Flag, an exercise designed to test troops' ability to operate in a deployed environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Aerial port personnel from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group work in concert with Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element to off-load cargo from a U.S. Air Force C-17 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 28, 2012. The two units were tasked with setting up a Joint Task Force-Port Opening as part of Eagle Flag, an exercise designed to test troops' ability to operate in a deployed environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

U.S. Army Specialist Amanda Alaeluci positions a cargo container using a 10,000-pound all-terrain forklift as Private 1st Class Callie Rankin prepares a truck platform to receive the container March 26, 2012, during Exercise Eagle Flag at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Both Soldiers are assigned to the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element, based at Fort Eustis, Va. The element is working with the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group to establish an aerial port at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station within 24 hours of arrival. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

U.S. Army Specialist Amanda Alaeluci positions a cargo container using a 10,000-pound all-terrain forklift as Private 1st Class Callie Rankin prepares a truck platform to receive the container March 26, 2012, during Exercise Eagle Flag at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Both Soldiers are assigned to the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element, based at Fort Eustis, Va. The element is working with the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group to establish an aerial port at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station within 24 hours of arrival. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

A U.S. Army Soldier from the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element loads a cargo container onto an M11-20 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck in the marshaling yard at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station, N.J., March 27, 2012. The cargo, which arrived by airlift earlier in the week, is being transported over land to a forward distribution node as part of a U.S. Transportation Command exercise designed to test the ability of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group to establish a Joint Task Force-Port Opening within 24 hours of arrival. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

A U.S. Army Soldier from the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element loads a cargo container onto an M11-20 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck in the marshaling yard at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station, N.J., March 27, 2012. The cargo, which arrived by airlift earlier in the week, is being transported over land to a forward distribution node as part of a U.S. Transportation Command exercise designed to test the ability of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group to establish a Joint Task Force-Port Opening within 24 hours of arrival. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Army Sgt. Japheth Forehand, distribution NCO for the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element in Fort Eustis, Va., secures a cargo container to a flatbed trailer as another is maneuvered into place and a C-17 flies overhead March 29, 2012, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Forehand was working at the Forward Node of a Joint Task Force-Port Opening during Eagle Flag, a U.S. Air Force-sponsored exercise to prepare units for operating in deployed environments. The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group operated the airlift side of the JTF-PO, known as an Aerial Port of Debarkation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Army Sgt. Japheth Forehand, distribution NCO for the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element in Fort Eustis, Va., secures a cargo container to a flatbed trailer as another is maneuvered into place and a C-17 flies overhead March 29, 2012, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Forehand was working at the Forward Node of a Joint Task Force-Port Opening during Eagle Flag, a U.S. Air Force-sponsored exercise to prepare units for operating in deployed environments. The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group operated the airlift side of the JTF-PO, known as an Aerial Port of Debarkation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Hitt, a vehicle operator from the 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., straps cargo to a flatbed trailer March 29, 2012, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Hitt was working at the Forward Node of a Joint Task Force-Port Opening during Eagle Flag, a U.S. Air Force-sponsored exercise to prepare units for operating in deployed environments. The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group operated the airlift side of the JTF-PO, known as an Aerial Port of Debarkation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Hitt, a vehicle operator from the 22nd Logistics Readiness Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., straps cargo to a flatbed trailer March 29, 2012, at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Hitt was working at the Forward Node of a Joint Task Force-Port Opening during Eagle Flag, a U.S. Air Force-sponsored exercise to prepare units for operating in deployed environments. The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group operated the airlift side of the JTF-PO, known as an Aerial Port of Debarkation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Maj. Greg Schanding, a civil engineer for the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, measures distances for tent layout March 26, 2012, as a member of the Joint Assessment Team for Eagle Flag. The 123rd Contingency Response Group from Louisville, Ky., and the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element from Fort Eustis, Va., have joined to form a Joint Task Force-Port Opening at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., through March 30. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Maj. Greg Schanding, a civil engineer for the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, measures distances for tent layout March 26, 2012, as a member of the Joint Assessment Team for Eagle Flag. The 123rd Contingency Response Group from Louisville, Ky., and the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element from Fort Eustis, Va., have joined to form a Joint Task Force-Port Opening at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., through March 30. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group set up an Alaskan Shelter tent at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 26, 2012, during Exercise Eagle Flag. More than 80 Airmen from the Kentucky Air Guard have joined forces with over 50 active-duty Army troops and Air Guardsmen from New Jersey and Mississippi to establish an aerial port at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station within 24 hours of arrival. Inspectors from U.S. Transportation Command will evaluate the performance of the Kentucky unit during the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group set up an Alaskan Shelter tent at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 26, 2012, during Exercise Eagle Flag. More than 80 Airmen from the Kentucky Air Guard have joined forces with over 50 active-duty Army troops and Air Guardsmen from New Jersey and Mississippi to establish an aerial port at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station within 24 hours of arrival. Inspectors from U.S. Transportation Command will evaluate the performance of the Kentucky unit during the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

1st Lt. Kevin Eilers of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group sets up an Alaskan Shelter tent at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 26, 2012, during Exercise Eagle Flag. More than 80 Airmen from the Kentucky Air Guard have joined forces with over 50 active-duty Army troops and Air Guardsmen from New Jersey and Mississippi to establish an aerial port at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station within 24 hours of arrival. Inspectors from U.S. Transportation Command will evaluate the performance of the Kentucky unit during the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)
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1st Lt. Kevin Eilers of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group sets up an Alaskan Shelter tent at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 26, 2012, during Exercise Eagle Flag. More than 80 Airmen from the Kentucky Air Guard have joined forces with over 50 active-duty Army troops and Air Guardsmen from New Jersey and Mississippi to establish an aerial port at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station within 24 hours of arrival. Inspectors from U.S. Transportation Command will evaluate the performance of the Kentucky unit during the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element, based in Fort Eustis, Va., position a lighting cart near the flight line at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., during Exercise Eagle Flag March 26, 2012. The element is working with the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group to establish an aerial port at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station within 24 hours of arrival. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)
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Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element, based in Fort Eustis, Va., position a lighting cart near the flight line at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., during Exercise Eagle Flag March 26, 2012. The element is working with the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group to establish an aerial port at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station within 24 hours of arrival. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Staff Sgt. Michael Railey, a communication specialist in the Kentucky Air National Guard's123rd Contingency Response Group, assembles an antenna group at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on March 27, 2012. Railey was participating in a U.S. Transportation Command exercise designed to test the Kentucky unit’s ability to establish a Joint Task Force-Port Opening within 24 hours of arrival. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)
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Staff Sgt. Michael Railey, a communication specialist in the Kentucky Air National Guard's123rd Contingency Response Group, assembles an antenna group at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on March 27, 2012. Railey was participating in a U.S. Transportation Command exercise designed to test the Kentucky unit’s ability to establish a Joint Task Force-Port Opening within 24 hours of arrival. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Maj. Ash Groves, air operations officer for the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, monitors air traffic March 28, 2012, at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station, N.J., while sitting in a Hard-sided Expandable Lightweight Air-Mobile Shelter. The HELAMS served as a Joint Operations Center for Army and Air Force personnel running a Joint Task Force-Port Opening as part of Eagle Flag, an exercise designed to test the ability of U.S. forces to operate in a deployed environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)
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Maj. Ash Groves, air operations officer for the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, monitors air traffic March 28, 2012, at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station, N.J., while sitting in a Hard-sided Expandable Lightweight Air-Mobile Shelter. The HELAMS served as a Joint Operations Center for Army and Air Force personnel running a Joint Task Force-Port Opening as part of Eagle Flag, an exercise designed to test the ability of U.S. forces to operate in a deployed environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Role-playing actors give Col. Warren Hurst (center), commander of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, and Army Maj. Keith Pruett, commander of the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element from Fort Eustis, Va., an Arabic welcome to the fictional village of Sabor, Nessor, on March 28, 2012. Both were participating in Eagle Flag, an exercise designed to simulate a deployed environment at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)
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Role-playing actors give Col. Warren Hurst (center), commander of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, and Army Maj. Keith Pruett, commander of the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element from Fort Eustis, Va., an Arabic welcome to the fictional village of Sabor, Nessor, on March 28, 2012. Both were participating in Eagle Flag, an exercise designed to simulate a deployed environment at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Col. Warren Hurst, commander of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, meets for tea with an actor playing the role of town mayor in the fictional village of Sabor, Nessor, on March 28, 2012. Hurst was participating in Eagle Flag, an exercise designed to simulate a deployed environment at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)
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Col. Warren Hurst, commander of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group, meets for tea with an actor playing the role of town mayor in the fictional village of Sabor, Nessor, on March 28, 2012. Hurst was participating in Eagle Flag, an exercise designed to simulate a deployed environment at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Actors, playing the roles of Arabic citizens in the fictional village of Sabor, Nessor, bid farewell to members of the Kentucky Air National Guard and U.S. Army after the servicemembers paid a visit to the town March 28, 2012. The event was part of Eagle Flag, an exercise designed to simulate a deployed environment at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)
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Actors, playing the roles of Arabic citizens in the fictional village of Sabor, Nessor, bid farewell to members of the Kentucky Air National Guard and U.S. Army after the servicemembers paid a visit to the town March 28, 2012. The event was part of Eagle Flag, an exercise designed to simulate a deployed environment at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Maj. Bruce Bancroft of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group describes the operation of an Aerial Port of Debarkation to simulated news reporters at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 28, 2012. Bancroft was participating in an exercise called Eagle Flag, along with more than 80 other Kentucky Air Guardsmen and about 50 active-duty Soldiers and Air Guardsmen from New Jersey and Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)
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Maj. Bruce Bancroft of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group describes the operation of an Aerial Port of Debarkation to simulated news reporters at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., March 28, 2012. Bancroft was participating in an exercise called Eagle Flag, along with more than 80 other Kentucky Air Guardsmen and about 50 active-duty Soldiers and Air Guardsmen from New Jersey and Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Senior Airman Beau DeLeon, a civil engineer from the New Jersey Air Guard's 108th Contingency Response Group, takes cover during a simulated enemy attack at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on March 29, 2012. DeLeon was participating in an exercise called Eagle Flag, along with more than 80 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group and about 50 active-duty Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)
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Senior Airman Beau DeLeon, a civil engineer from the New Jersey Air Guard's 108th Contingency Response Group, takes cover during a simulated enemy attack at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on March 29, 2012. DeLeon was participating in an exercise called Eagle Flag, along with more than 80 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group and about 50 active-duty Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Army Maj. Keith Pruett, commander of the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element, directs his troops to take cover during a simulated enemy attack at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on March 29, 2012. Pruett was participating in an exercise called Eagle Flag, along with about 50 other Soldiers and more than 80 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)
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Army Maj. Keith Pruett, commander of the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element, directs his troops to take cover during a simulated enemy attack at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on March 29, 2012. Pruett was participating in an exercise called Eagle Flag, along with about 50 other Soldiers and more than 80 Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Army Sgt. Billy Artis, a transporter from the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element, drives cargo from the marshaling yard at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station, N.J., to a forward distribution node during Exercise Eagle Flag March 27, 2012. The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group from Louisville, Ky., and the 690th from Fort Eustis, Va., joined forces for the exercise to form a Joint Task Force-Port Opening. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)
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Army Sgt. Billy Artis, a transporter from the 690th Rapid Port Opening Element, drives cargo from the marshaling yard at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station, N.J., to a forward distribution node during Exercise Eagle Flag March 27, 2012. The Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group from Louisville, Ky., and the 690th from Fort Eustis, Va., joined forces for the exercise to form a Joint Task Force-Port Opening. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Airmen from the 123rd Contingency Response Group board a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 on March 30, 2012, after the conclusion of a weeklong Eagle Flag exercise at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The Kentucky group joined forces with more 50 active-duty Soldiers and Airmen from the New Jersey and Mississippi Air Guard to establish an aerial port and Joint Task Fiorce-Port Opening at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station within 24 hours of arrival. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)
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Airmen from the 123rd Contingency Response Group board a Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 on March 30, 2012, after the conclusion of a weeklong Eagle Flag exercise at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The Kentucky group joined forces with more 50 active-duty Soldiers and Airmen from the New Jersey and Mississippi Air Guard to establish an aerial port and Joint Task Fiorce-Port Opening at Lakehurst Naval Air Engineering Station within 24 hours of arrival. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J -- The men and women of the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group set new standards for excellence when they deployed here last month to demonstrate their logistics capability in an austere environment, according to officials from U.S. Transportation Command and the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center.

As a result, U.S. Transportation Command has now verified the 123rd CRG as the first Contingency Response Group in the Air National Guard that's fully capable of operating a Joint Task Force-Port Opening -- a logistics hub that combines an Air Force Aerial Port of Debarkation with an Army trucking and distribution unit.

The Kentucky group, working in conjunction with the U.S. Army's 690th Rapid Port Opening Element, established a fully operational JTF-PO here within 24 hours of the main body's arrival March 26, then proceeded to offload an unprecedented 1,068 short tons of simulated cargo from in-bound planes before trucking it to a forward distribution point over the next three days, inspectors said.

"U.S. Transportation Command officials said we 'knocked it out of the park' and described our performance as 'best seen to date' in two key areas -- cargo operations and force protection," according to Col. Warren Hurst, commander of the JTF-PO and 123rd CRG. "We moved 475 pallets of cargo in just over 72 hours, which was a new record for this exercise.

"That's truly gratifying because it's a reflection of everyone's individual and team efforts. I saw phenomenal teamwork all the way around, from the aerial porters who were downloading aircraft to the Army RPOE Soldiers trucking cargo to the forward node. Right from the start, the RPOE integrated very well with the aerial port and made it a seamless operation."

The Kentucky group has successfully executed this kind of mission before, Hurst noted. In 2010, for example, the 123rd CRG operated one of two overseas airlift hubs supporting earthquake relief operations in Haiti.

Now, with its success in New Jersey, the unit has TRANSCOM's official seal of approval.

"I think we have now truly demonstrated our ability to accomplish this mission anywhere in the world," Hurst said.

"It's a significant milestone in the history of the 123rd CRG, but also for the Air National Guard to have verification on this crucial mission set. Any large response, whether it's for combat operations or humanitarian operations, will need a JTF-PO capability."

Contingency response groups fulfill a unique role in America's military, providing a kind of "airbase in a box." They can deploy to a non-functional airfield and establish aerial port operations within 48 hours, bringing with them all the equipment and expertise required to operate for up to 45 days. Skill sets include air traffic control, cargo handling, power production, aircraft maintenance and security forces.

"We provide everything necessary to get airflow moving into what otherwise would be an inoperable airfield," Hurst explained. "That's a particularly valuable asset following natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes, where relief supplies need to flow in quickly and injured personnel may need to be medevaced elsewhere for medical care."

The Kentucky unit's JTF-PO verification was staged in New Jersey as part of Eagle Flag, a USAF Chief of Staff-directed exercise designed to test a unit's ability to operate in a deployed environment. Traditionally an air base opening exercise, Eagle Flag has evolved into a proof of concept for Joint Task Force-Port Opening, defense support to civil authorities and other contingency operations, according to the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, which runs Eagle Flag.

The 123rd's exercise began when a Joint Assessment Team of less than a dozen personnel arrived March 25 to survey the airfield, determine whether it could support required operations and begin initial set-up. They found a usable tarmac, a bare patch of sandy ground and little else. The following day, the main body of about 80 Airmen arrived from Louisville, Ky., along with 47 active-duty Soldiers from Fort Eustis, Va. Additional Air Guardsmen from Mississippi and New Jersey augmented the package.

The troops banded together quickly to set up camp, but exercise officials had other plans, noted 1st Lt. Kevin Eilers, the 123rd CRG's bioenvironmental engineering officer. Inspectors decided to delay the simulated arrival of two aircraft carrying most of the equipment needed to erect tents for sleeping quarters. By the time the gear arrived, winds had picked up to 30 knots, and the temperature had dropped to 20 degrees.

"It was pretty cold and very windy," Eilers recalled. "Setting up tents was difficult, but we got it done. Then we didn't have heat in every tent the first night, so it was a pretty tough day. But those folks who did endure the icy temperatures adapted and overcame."

By the next day, operations were humming smoothly, Hurst said, despite constant exercise injects that required JTF-PO members to meet with simulated local military leaders, politicians, journalists and citizens -- all being played by Eagle Flag actors.

"We had initial operating capability within 24 hours of the Joint Assessment Team's arrival, and full operating capability within 42 hours -- six full hours ahead of the exercise requirement," Hurst noted.

"Our public affairs team, two staff judge advocates and chaplain were essential to keeping those operations on track," he added. "All had vital work that contributed directly to our success. Many of the exercise injects could not have been handled without their expertise and professionalism, which allowed the mission to continue without interruption."

Eagle Flag officials had similar praise for several other duty sections, including the Joint Assessment Team, power production, medical, logistics and security forces, which dispatched a highly effective Quick Reaction Force to the forward node -- 5.7 miles away -- about 10 minutes after it came under attack from enemy forces on the next-to-last day.

But their highest praise was reserved for the smooth flow of cargo handled jointly by the Air Guard and Army units.

"You guys moved cargo like no one else," said Lt. Col. Rhett Boldenow, commander of the 421st Combat Training Squadron at Joint Base MDL. "The measure I use is: How many pallets are in the clearance yard? You guys never had more than one airplane's worth of pallets sitting out there at one time. Overall, you did a great job with this mission. I was really impressed. You raised the bar for everyone else."

Master Sgt. Joshua Younce said the credit goes to effective cooperation between Air Guardsmen and Army Soldiers.

"It was truly a purple, seamless operation," said Younce, chief of the 123rd Mobile Aerial Port Flight. "A lot of times, you couldn't tell whether it was the Air Force or the Army that was performing a task. When someone saw a hole that needed to be filled, they jumped in and filled it."

Army Maj. Keith Pruett agreed.

"I've not had a lot of opportunity to work closely with the Air Force," said Pruett, commander of the 690th RPOE. "I've never dealt with an APOD. So building that teamwork with blue and green, and just getting the job done -- that was seamless, I think. Everyone knew what we had to do, from operations to customs to clearance out to the forward node. It was the smoothest operation I've ever been a part of."

For Col. Spike Owens, commander of the USAF Expeditionary Operations School, the JTF-PO's weeklong demonstration was "an incredible performance."

"You should be very impressed with what you accomplished over the past week," Owens told the Airmen and Soldiers during an Eagle Flag outbrief March 30. "There's no doubt in my mind you guys are ready to go execute the mission."

View additional photos here.