Story by TSgt Christopher Hubenthal on 08/09/2019Service members from Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, practiced their ability to rapidly deploy personnel and assets during Exercise Dragon Lifeline here Aug. 7 to Aug. 9, 2019.
Fort Bragg's 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command chose JB Charleston as the location because it provides Soldiers with a realistic training environment, allowing for hands-on experience in moving assets by air, land, rail and sea. Participants capitalized on the air base's aerial port, JB Charleston Naval Weapons Station's rail system, and Charleston's Federal Law Enforcement Training Center's sea port.
"Charleston is unique because it provides us the capability to exercise at scale," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. James Smith, commanding general of the 3rd ESC. "The Army's number one priority right now is readiness. We have our Soldiers and leadership conducting rail load operations, vessel operations and air load operations, all with the intent of maintaining our expeditionary posture in the event we have to deploy into a combat zone or in response to a humanitarian effort."
U.S. Navy Lt. Brenton Breed, 841st Transportation Battalion operations officer, said training at JB Charleston allowed participants to focus on multi-terrain operations because of its various mobility platforms.
"The Army is training for all eventualities, that's what this is about," said Breed. "[Soldiers] are able to receive a unique training experience thanks to JB Charleston's location and mobility capabilities. This helps ensure the Army is more prepared when called upon to serve."
Air Force, Navy and Army participants worked together during the exercise to familiarize themselves with the capabilities each service employs and get an idea of what it's like to deploy together as a total force.
Exercises like Dragon lifeline were designed to develop skills needed for real world operations. For example, the 1st Infantry Division conducted a deployment out of JB Charleston earlier this year in support of Atlantic Resolve, a mission that focused on the deployment of more than 3,500 Soldiers and over 200 military vehicles to Eastern Europe.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Jeff Pecora, a 15th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III aircraft commander, said all services involved can be better prepared for real-world rapid deployments thanks to exercises like Dragon Lifeline.
"What's great about this training exercise is we can integrate together," said Pecora. "We get all their equipment onto our aircraft and take it to an austere environment that we're not usually going to. Just like they're not used to loading it on an airplane, they get to see our half of the fight and we get to see their half, and then blend it together it just increases the reality of what we'll see out in [a deployed location]."
Smith said Dragon Lifeline was successful in preparing service members to deploy because of the interoperability the joint team showcased during the exercise.
"The days of being service centric are gone," said Smith. "We fight and operate as a joint force. To deploy at scale with the respect of what we're replicating now, you need all the services that are involved. We have the Navy, the Military Sealift Command, helping us out with the vessel load, we have the Army's [Military] Surface Deployment and Distribution Command helping out with some of the surface movements, and then we have the Air Force training our Soldiers on how to properly rig pallets compatible with a C-17 airframe. You need all the services working together in harmony to deploy."
The annual exercise is just one of the critical readiness exercises the DOD conducts to maintain a lethal and ready force.