The inner workings of an international exercise

News Article / June 14, 2017

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By Second Lieutenant Camille Dolphin

Keeping an exercise the size of Maple Flag on track takes a huge team of dedicated and experienced personnel. From food services to transportation to supply to finance,  host of services and capabilities keep personnel moving, on the ground and in the air.

It comes down to preparation, coordination, command and control – and a small army of hard-working specialists. There are thousands of logistical details to consider.

In the Royal Canadian Air Force, the logistics branch is divided into four main disciplines: transport, supply, finance and food services. All have a role to play in Exercise Maple Flag, held at 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta.

The logistics team for Maple Flag provides transportation, customs, refueling, equipment transfer, furniture supply, electronics and computers. They also supply products, from tents to bug spray, night lights to first aid kits, paper to cleaning supplies.  

Preparations begin months before the participants arrive. Then the team works 24 hours a day through the month-long exercise and then another month cleaning up. To make Maple Flag happen they coordinate with a wide array of 4 Wing units. From an aviator working in Transportation Services to 4 Wing’s commander, everyone plays a part.

The team is composed of 14 people who work for the wing logistics operations officer, Mr. John White. Their goal is to provide the participants with all the goods and services they need so they have nothing to worry about once their mission begins.

“We provide the essentials of life, so they [the participants] can concentrate on making planes fly,” Mr. White says. “We give them everything they need. In the end it’s all about the planes, we want them [the participants] to concentrate on safety and mission success”

One way the logistics team takes care of everyone is with reliable, easy and fast food services in the form of a full-scale satellite kitchen.

Master Corporal Gerald Francis of wing foods is in command of the satellite kitchen, set up north of the Air Force Tactical Training Centre (AFTTC). This kitchen and dining facility is built exclusively for Exercise Maple Flag to feed approximately 1,770 Canadian and international personnel.

Choosing the setting is the first step in planning a food service area. The location was chosen for its proximity to the flight line and AFTTC, where most of the exercise’s coordination and planning takes place.

According to Master Corporal Francis, this position is perfect because it allows for easy re-supply of food and it permits quick meal service for the different crews working on or around the airfield.

The location is also close to the AFTTC conference rooms, which it supplies with muffins, cookies, coffee and juice.

Once the location is established, the involvement of other logistical elements is required, including supply. Before the opening, an immense modular tent has to be set up to accommodate the exterior dining room, tables, refrigerators, freezers, barbecues and cooking appliances.

The building that will serve as the food preparation and cooking area, and the actual food service area, must be cleaned and set up to safe and healthy standards. The set up and cleaning period takes approximately three weeks.

Then, Master Corporal Francis says, comes the organization phase where the hours of operation, the menu and the staff requirements are developed.

The Maple Flag field kitchen is open for breakfast and lunch from Monday to Friday. To serve the personnel in a timely manner, the menu is made up of items that can be grilled on the barbecue such as hamburgers, hot dogs and pizzas; their specialty is the gourmet hamburger.

Four staff members work at the field kitchen: a civilian cook, two military cooks and a master corporal who ensures things run smoothly. They often wake up as early as 3:30 a.m. and work 12-hour shifts, serving 200 to 300 people every day.

This example of the logistics involved in Exercise Maple Flag demonstrates how teamwork creates the conditions for a successful international exercise. The professionalism of 4 Wing logistics and engineering, and the Maple Flag logistics team, helps to keep the fighters flying.


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