Team Robins heads east, assists Guard with F-16 crash efforts

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon and Tommie Horton
  • Robins Public Affairs
Following a June 7 mid-air collision involving two Air Force F-16C aircraft over a wooded military training area in Jefferson County, Georgia, the call for support went out across Robins Air Force Base.

The response was immediate.

The pilots, assigned to the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina, collided during an evening training exercise. Both ejected safely.

With Robins as the nearest Air Force active duty base to the crash sites, the 5th Combat Communications Group, 78th Air Base Wing and 116th Air Control Wing provided personnel and equipment to assist. More than 75 Team Robins members have responded since the initial call for support.

"This has given us an opportunity to partner with not only our Guard comrades from another state, but also with our Robins mission partners to demonstrate our ability to set up a continuity of operations program, and actually run real-time operations under the pressures of a real-world incident," said Col. Jarvis Baker, 78th Mission Support Group commander.

"Our folks have performed tremendously," he added. "Their professionalism, dedication and passion in what they do has been evident by leadership from other organizations calling them out."

Col. Dawn Lancaster, 78th ABW vice commander and Crisis Action Team commander at Robins during the first week of operations, agreed.

"Throughout this process I've been so proud of our people both on the ground in Louisville and those working behind the scenes here on base," said Lancaster.

"Our people are making a difference. I know this first-hand after seeing for myself the great work being done on site. It's amazing," said Lancaster after her visit to the site Monday along with Col. Sarah Christ, incoming 78th ABW vice commander.

Not only is base leadership applauding their efforts but Team Robins members are receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from the 169th FW and numerous others including Lt. Gen. Lee Levy, Air Force Sustainment Center commander. "

We are truly exemplifying that Success Here equals Success There," Lancaster added.

Five 78th Security Forces Squadron airmen were the first from Robins to arrive June 8. Rotating teams have since covered 24-hour shifts at two different crash sites; one secured by the 78th SFS, the other by the 169th Security Forces Squadron.

"As far as the incident itself, we're making sure aircraft are secure as well as any personnel who live in this general area," Tech Sgt. Jeremy Jackson, 78th SFS, said. "We're making sure they understand what's going on and ensuring they're safe."

The 5th CCG's Hammer Adaptive Communications Element, Hammer ACE, deployed three personnel and convoyed with security forces as part of a Robins Incident Response Team. They arrived by mid-afternoon.

Within a half hour of their arrival at Louisville's airport - the site of recovery operations - the 5th CCG provided secure and non-secure telephone and network services, enabling reach-back capabilities to the Robins Emergency Operations Center and Crisis Action Team. By June 10, the group had also deployed two potable water trailers. 

Mission support was also provided by teams from the 78th Medical Group, bioenvironmental, chapel, 78th Force Support Squadron and 78th Civil Engineer Group.

The 78th CEG deployed its Mobile Emergency Operations Center, a sophisticated mobile command post capable of serving as a communications hub. From there, senior managers from the Robins EOC coordinate and direct resources into the field as needed. 

"This allows us to set up an operation off-site where we can provide a common operating picture to multiple organizations at the same time," said Baker, who serves as EOC director. "The first thing we did was provide security, and as things progressed, the 169th reached out to us to provide different support functions."
Inside the MEOC, Tech. Sgt. Terri Adams, 78th CEG Emergency Management Flight NCOIC, stressed the command and control support role of Robins, assisting the 169th FW with acquiring needed resources.

"As emergency managers, we know when our job happens, it's not a good day," she said. "But we get to do our job. It's great, and a good learning experience."

Other actions included visits from a chaplain and services personnel. A bioenvironmental team ensured it wasn't dangerous for airmen to recover the wreckage.

"This is what these guys train to do, and we're here to support them and make sure they're taken care of," Chaplain (Capt.) Matt Spencer said. "That's something we're excited to do and honored to be a part of."

Capt. Nicole Campbell echoed his sentiment.

"We're checking on people, seeing if they're getting enough sleep, and making sure no one's having a difficult reaction to what's going on," said Campbell, a 78th MDG mental health provider. "This is something we've been training for years and never get an opportunity to do."

Staff Sgt. Joshua Kilgore, 78th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, sampled water and monitored it for potential contaminants. He also made recommendations for personal protective equipment.

"Our job is to ensure the site is clean and safe, and that there's no exposure for the crews going in," he said.

The 116th Air Control Wing deployed a Disaster Relief Mobile Kitchen Trailer, preparing meals on site.

"It feels good to help out another service's unit," said Master Sgt. Patrick McMahon with the 116th ACW.

Editor's note: As of this week, Robins has taken command of both aircraft sites. An investigation into the crash is ongoing.