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164th Airlift Wing transports first civilian asset on Tennessee military aircraft.

  • Published
  • By Tech Sgt. Chelcee Arnold
  • 164th Airlift Wing

Seven members from the 164th successfully transported the State of Tennessee Department of Health Mobile Operations Center and a prime mover vehicle, August 5th, from Smyrna, Tenn., to Memphis on a C-17 as part of Exercise Vigilant Guard 2021. This proof of concept flight could potentially lead to expedited movement of these MOC trailers across the state in the event of future disasters.

While only seven members were on board this flight, the concept development began approximately two years ago involving many federal agencies from the National Guard Bureau to the U.S. Northern Command. However, two members, Senior Master Sgt. Brian McDonald, 155th loadmaster, and Master Sgt. John Voss, 155th loadmaster and regional planning manager for Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, were a part of the certification process from the beginning.

“Originally, there was nowhere on the trailer to attach restraints. So we got together with engineers and Tennessee Department of Health to get attachment points added; they welded on a sub train so we could tie it down safely and have all the criteria we need to transport,” said McDonald. “This flight was to prove that this could be done and later it became a part of the Vigilant Guard Exercise. The concept was proven, we got the engineering done so now how can we use it?”

Legally, military aircrew cannot fly civilian equipment on a military plane. There is a process for a waiver - working with the Chief of the Air National Guard Bureau, Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson. A package had to be presented to him through TN Joint Force Headquarters to get the approval. It was approved only one week prior to the move. After a successful test loading of the 21,000 pound MOC on both a C-17 and C-5 aircraft in January 2021, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Holmes, The Adjutant General, began the process to get approval to transport the asset in preparation for Vigilant Guard 2021.

Vigilant Guard is a statewide exercise that involves three regions, the west, mid-west, and east Tennessee. It is led by TEMA in conjunction with NORTHCOM assistance. The scenario was Hurricane Jordan is coming through Memphis and will cause catastrophic damage, flooding from the Mississippi River, and bridge damage simulated by what is called the rubble pile. The hurricane then will turn to head east towards Nashville and continue throughout the state. Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth MacFeggan, 155th Operations Group Superintendent, was a part of planning the exercise for the western region of the state and the 164th Airlift Wing. 

“The exercise will take out University Hospital at Memphis; the people coming in today are the CBRN Enhanced Response Force Package team from Kentucky and Civil Support Team from Arkansas,” said MacFeggan. “They deal with natural disasters and secure the area. This feeds into the rubble pile and we are simulating that the hospital has been taken out and they will be dealing with the electrical outages, personnel extractions and flooding and these teams have the capability to handle it.”

The CERFP and CST teams will also work alongside local entities such as Memphis Fire Department and, of course, the 164th Air National Guard Base. In a real world incident this is when the MOC would be flown in for use. The modifications made to the Tennessee trailer will make Air Transportability Test Loading Activity certification available to other states allowing them to make changes and support their trailers as well.

“It’s got TAG level visibility. From planning, getting certifications, test loads to actually flying it from point A to B is the pinnacle of this whole process,” said MacFeggan.