EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – The 177th Fighter Wing operating out of Atlantic City International Airport has mobilized more than 60 Airmen from across the Wing on a mission to support the D.C. National Guard in the nation’s Capitol Region, providing security, protecting national monuments, and ensuring a peaceful transfer of power to President-elect Joseph R. Biden and Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris.
The short-notice New Jersey National Guard movement included New Jersey Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1-114th Infantry Regiment, B Troop from the 102nd Cavalry Regiment, and the 508th Military Company, as well as Airmen from the 108th Wing and the 177th FW, in support of this security mission.
“I would venture to say it was unprecedented,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Aaron Dunn, 177th Fighter Wing Mission Support Group commander. “We mobilized, from the time the Wing commander asked us for volunteers to them being immediately ready for mission requirements and enroute to D.C., in under 48 hours., with a couple of the advanced operational node team members actually in D.C. in under 24 hrs.”
The level of the teamwork and coordination needed to accomplish the movement was magnified as the 177th Fighter Wing was simultaneously preparing for training exercises at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
“I’m so incredibly impressed with everything our enlisted noncommissioned officers in charge have been able to do,” said 2d Lt. Jennifer Love, 177th Logistics Readiness officer and interim installation deployment officer. “This is a completely unprecedented time and then you add the complexity of COVID-19, you add the complexity of another movement and in some way, they’ve been able to make all of the complexity uncomplicated and make it happen, in a matter of hours.”
Unit members completed medical requirements, had orders processed, completed training training, picked up cold and wet weather gear, as well as personal protective equipment before heading to staging at the New Jersey National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt.
“With the NJ Army and Air National Guard combining their efforts, the process has become very smooth,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Fogarty, a firefighter with the 177th and acting Air Force liaison for Joint Task Force 44 at Sea Girt, assigned to the command and control cell. “It’s going as smoothly as it can with the obviously last-minute notifications for the civil disturbance in D.C. I was one of the first unit members assigned to a COVID-19 mission at the Joint Operations Center in March. Over the course of eight months, we’ve definitely got this process down pat at this point.”
“There has been a ton of direct collaboration using CVR (commercial virtual remote) Teams that has been amazing,” Dunn said. “We’ve gotten to the point where there is so much information flowing back and forth that we’ve set up separate chat rooms for the Joint Force Headquarters and the Joint Operations Center and the command and control communication has been fantastic. Lots of communication. Due to COVID, because we’ve hurried up and got it on the street, CVR has fully enabled us. It’s made it so everyone has the same information in front of them at the same time, in real time, and it has been fantastic.”
Up to 15,000 citizen-soldiers and airmen from 43 states and territories are currently authorized to provide security, communications, medical evacuation and other support to civilian authorities throughout the presidential inauguration. At the request of the U.S. National Guard Bureau, and authorized by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, 500 citizen soldiers and airmen are deploying to Washington, D.C.
“The National Guard has a long and proud history of inauguration support. The forefathers of today’s National Guard were present for the inauguration of George Washington, and we have been part of every inauguration since,” said Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau. “We stand ready to support this national event with our interagency partners.”
“This is what we signed up to do,” Ericksen said. “My family knows I’m always 100% ready to go when I get the call.”
Military involvement in the Presidential Inauguration dates back to April 30, 1789, when members of the U.S. Army, local militias (the modern-day National Guard), and Revolutionary War veterans escorted George Washington to New York City – the seat of government for his inauguration ceremony.
177th Fighter Wing noncommissioned officers from supply helped equip the airmen, Force Support Squadron personnel helped coordinate individual units’ ability to cut and process their airmen’s orders, Security Forces Squadron conducted just-in-time arms training, the plans office choreographed logistics with all of the unit deployment managers, the 177th Medical Group coordinated health checks, and vehicle operations put in extra hours and took all of the gear and the last round of the first movements to D.C.
“I really want a lot of the junior Airmen to understand what it took to make this happen,” said Love. “And how completely unexpected it was and how well it was able to be executed, with a lot of team work, a lot of coordination, and a lot of that Jersey Devil grit.”