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Mobility exercise marks another step to ORI

Senior Airman Rocio Perez of the 123rd Force Support Squadron gets an inoculation while processing through the base mobility machine Oct. 25, 2009, during a mobility exercise held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. D. Clare)

Senior Airman Rocio Perez of the 123rd Force Support Squadron gets an inoculation while processing through the base mobility machine Oct. 25, 2009, during a mobility exercise held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. D. Clare)

Staff Sgt. Holly Moore, a financial services technician in the 123rd Airlift Wing, reviews mobility records Oct. 25 as part of the Personnel Deployment Function for a mobility exercise held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

Staff Sgt. Holly Moore, a financial services technician in the 123rd Airlift Wing, reviews mobility records Oct. 25 as part of the Personnel Deployment Function for a mobility exercise held at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Dale Greer)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The 123rd Airlift Wing took another step toward next spring's Operational Readiness Inspection with a mobility exercise that processed more than 315 Airmen and nine chalks' worth of cargo through the personnel deployment function here Oct. 24 and 25.

The exercise, designed primarily to ensure that Airmen have their mobility records, inoculations and deployment gear in order, was the first of several training events scheduled to happen in the next seven months leading up to the May ORI, said Col. Greg Nelson, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing.

Mobility exercises also are scheduled for this weekend and the January drill, while ATSO -- or Ability to Survive and Operate -- exercises are slated for December and February to verify members' capabilities in a chemical-warfare environment, Colonel Nelson said.

The wing will then perform a fly-away exercise in March by deploying to at a Combat Readiness Training Center and setting up operations in a simulated hostile environment, much as it will be tasked to do during the inspection.

"I was very pleased with the exercise overall," Colonel Nelson said. "We definitely have room for improvement, and we're looking at ways that we can further strengthen our Installation Deployment Plan, but everyone had a good attitude. That will be the key to our success in the inspection."

Colonel Nelson also emphasized personal responsibility as a critical factor in mission readiness, not only as the wing prepares for its next inspection but year-round.

"Everyone must take responsibility for his or her own readiness, not just for the ORI, but all the time so that we are ready to deploy at a moment's notice if called today.

"We also need to remember that our families need to be ready, too. Does everyone have a will or power of attorney? Does everyone's spouse have emergency phone numbers for the plumber or electrician, or contact information for the base and our Family Support Group? These are some of things we need to be thinking about as we focus on next May's inspection."

That inspection will be unique, Colonel Nelson noted, because it will mark the first time that any Air Force unit has ever been evaluated for operational readiness as part of a homeland-defense scenario.

Typical ORIs task a wing with deploying to a simulated combat environment in a host nation like South Korea. But May's inspection is expected to grade the unit for its response to a stateside natural disaster and a near-simultaneous hostile attack on the homeland.

"We will be the first unit to demonstrate our wartime readiness and capabilities in support of the security and defense of our nation," Colonel Nelson said.

"This also will also be the first Total Force ORI. We'll be combining Air National Guard Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing, in Title 32 status, with Air Force active-duty troops and Reserve Airmen from the 317th Airlift Group and 70th Aerial Port Squadron, in Title 10 status -- all jointly working under the same operational direction.

"We are truly breaking new ground."

This fresh approach is based in part on new roles the National Guard assumed as it transitioned from a strategic reserve to a front-line operational force following 9/11, Colonel Nelson said. These new roles mean the National Guard is now the primary military organization responsible for homeland defense, whether it be response to natural disaster or enemy attack.

In light of these changes, it makes perfect sense for the wing's next ORI to test the kinds of capabilities the Kentucky Air Guard will be called upon to deliver in the event of an enemy attack on U.S. soil or the occurrence of natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and tornados.

Nelson noted that the idea for the new concept originated in Kentucky, where local Guard officials are keen to demonstrate the 123rd Airlift Wing's homeland defense capabilities.

The revised scenario was approved by Air Mobility Command officials, he said, because it mirrors the wing's potential real-world taskings so well.

"We're stepping forward to do this because we believe homeland defense and homeland security are primary missions of the National Guard," Colonel Nelson said.

"That's especially true of the Kentucky Air National Guard because of the capabilities that we house within the 123rd Airlift Wing.

"Those include C-130 airlift, special tactics search-and-rescue, explosive ordnance disposal, expeditionary medical services and the 123rd Contingency Response Group," whose mission is to establish new airfields in austere environments.

"These capabilities allow us to respond to any natural disaster or enemy attack on the United States, open up an air hub, and provide search-and-rescue and medical assets as part of one coordinated effort."