LAKEHURST NAVAL AIR STATION, N.J.: Airmen and Soldiers assigned to U.S. Transportation Command’s Joint Task Force-Port Opening are participating in Eagle Flag 2009, an Air Expeditionary Center-sponsored exercise here where they are being evaluated on their ability to establish and operate a port of debarkation and cargo distribution node.

The participants, from the Army’s 597th Transportation Group and the Air Force’s 621st Contingency Response Wing, are being tested on their ability to conduct airfield assessment, cargo handling, in-transit visibility, communications and forward node management.

The exercise, which runs through Aug. 9, gives JTF-PO officials a good training venue to practice and demonstrate the important expeditionary capabilities it provides the U.S. military.

“JTF-PO helps the United States expand its global reach, especially in times of crisis, without relying solely on established ports,” said Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, the TRANSCOM commander. “It provides essential joint quick-reaction teams to open and operate air and seaports to ensure forces, supplies and equipment can begin to flow quickly for contingency or humanitarian operations.”

JTF-PO members are a small team that can open and operate an airfield, aerial port and forward supply node. Once operational, the team offloads aircraft and transports the cargo to a staging area several miles from the airfield, where it is then distributed to combatant commanders in a contingency or the local population during a humanitarian relief operation.

“Light and lean, the JTF-PO is part of a mosaic of logistics capabilities than can initiate and sustain distribution operations without the benefit of fixed facilities until follow-on forces arrive,” General McNabb said.

JTF-PO provides oversight of joint force deployment and sustainment while supporting TRANSCOM’s mission of providing end-to-end synchronized cargo and passenger movement.

“Basically, the goal is to get equipment, people and supplies from the flightline to the frontline as quick as possible,” said Maj. Gen. Kip L. Self, the AEC commander. “This exercise gives these Airmen and Soldiers a chance to practice this … and improve every time they do.”

During the exercise, the more than 160 Airmen and Soldiers are offloading more than 300 pallets of cargo from 20 aircraft sorties, organizing it and transporting it to the forward supply node for staging.

“The idea is that practice makes perfect,” said Tech. Sgt. Jacob Prichard, a member of the Eagle Flag evaluator cadre.

But the exercise also allows the Airmen and Soldiers to practice working together, before they deploy.

“The interaction between the Army and Air Force is great,” Sergeant Prichard said. “And they get to train together before they have to do this for real during a contingency or humanitarian operation.”

And, in today’s military, this is becoming more and more frequent.

“At the end of the day, we’re all on the same team and in the same fight,” General Self said.