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NEWS | July 21, 2015

Guardsmen Contribute to Theater Gateway Operations for Biennial Training Exercise

By Alaska National Guard Public Affairs

ROCKHAMPTON, Australia - More than 20 Alaska National Guardsmen are supporting theater gateway operations for Exercise Talisman Sabre 15 in Australia June 21-July 31.

Talisman Sabre 15 is a combined biennial military exercise that aims to improve combat training, readiness and interoperability by exposing nearly 30,000 U.S. and Australian participants to a wide spectrum of military capabilities and training experiences.

Members of the 49th Theater Gateway, Alaska Army National Guard, are serving in Combined Joint Reception Cells (CJRCs) at theater gateways in the Brisbane, Darwin, Rockhampton and Sydney areas. Individuals from other Alaska Army National Guard units, as well as other active and reserve components, are augmenting the 49th Theater Gateway for the mission.

Theater gateways are the entry and exit points where all personnel must pass through before moving on to their respective areas of operation. Upon arrival to the theater gateway, troops commence the joint reception, staging, onward-movement and integration (JRSOI) process.

Lt. Col. Don Mercer, director of the 49th Theater Gateway, said the CJRC teams processed and accounted for more than 18,000 inbound U.S. personnel as of July 14. These exercise participants arrived in small and large groups on regular commercial flights, military air flights, and contracted commercial charter flights.

“Our Alaska National Guard members track personnel and coordinate the transition of personnel from arrival in Australia, to their duty location for the exercise,” said Mercer. “This real world training provides a tremendous opportunity to enhance our skills and ensure we’re prepared for our federal and state mission.”

While personnel specialists primarily serve in the CJRCs, transportation specialists at each location play a key role during operations.

In Rockhampton, Staff Sgt. Joseph Staunches, transportation non-commissioned officer, led the unique mission of assisting with processing passengers from an international charter flight landing at a domestic airport.

Staunches explained this experience as an example of the movement coordination at Rockhampton. He and the other members of the CJRC assisted Rockhampton Airport management with the arrival of nearly 350 personnel from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division on the commercial flight from Hawaii on July 2. They teamed with the Australian Defense Force and active duty Soldiers from 10th Support Group (Regional) and U.S. Army Alaska (USARAK).

“Rockhampton Airport periodically sections off a special event zone to handle international services. Bringing a large group of infantry Soldiers through the process poses unique challenges,” said Staunches. “Prior to their arrival, we spent several days coordinating closely with airport managers and conducted rehearsals within our internal team. This prepared us to respond to issues quickly during the tedious process.”

The group guided the troops through the airport procedures from arrival, through baggage claim, customs and the quarantine area for agriculture inspection. Once the service members and military civilians cleared customs and quarantine, buses and baggage trucks moved the troops and equipment to the nearby Australian military installation, Camp Rocky.

Staff Sgt. Kristopher Fager, operations noncommissioned officer, greeted the Soldiers upon arrival to Camp Rocky and managed the accountability process there.

“Our goal is to conduct personnel accountability quickly and accurately,” said Fager. “We are able to accomplish this within minutes using the automated Tactical Personnel System (TPS).”

After accountability was completed, Fager facilitated the process for service members to transition through the reception briefing and receive accommodations. The infantrymen used their short stay at the theater gateway to prepare for movement into Shoalwater Bay Training Area for the exercise.

This year is the sixth iteration for the Talisman Sabre, which provides the opportunity to increase both countries’ ability to plan and execute a full range of operations, from combat missions to humanitarian assistance. The exercise runs from July 5-19. The official U.S. homepage for the exercise is and the official Australian homepage is

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