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Archive for the ‘Forces Focus’ Category

Return With Honor – West Virginia Air National Guard SERE

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

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Survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) Instructor training is one of the most difficult and extensive training programs in the United States Air Force. It’s designed to do one thing – save lives in the midst of a worst case scenario – and is exactly the reason Master Sgt. Bob Miner took on the challenge of earning the title, which he now uses to train West Virginia Air National Guard members as the only SERE specialist in the state.

The SERE motto is “Return with honor”, and is what they base they’re whole career off of: teaching members the skills to do just that.

SERE Airmen must endure nearly two years of ruthless training designed to shape them into experts in their career fields. After an initial six-month long school where, on average, only 10 percent graduate, each SERE specialist must complete more than 45 weeks of on-the-job training to complete their skill sets.

This training includes U.S. Army Airborne School at Ft. Benning, Georgia; arctic training at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; water survival training in Pensacola, Florida; mountain training in Washington jungle training in Hawaii and even desert training in Nevada.

“This is a job you really have to earn. There is so much training that goes into this,” Miner said. “It is critical to be able to relay the skills and information you possess to the others and enable them to get themselves out of a bad situation.”

Training includes everything from land navigation, food and water procurement, shelter building, first aid, the military code of conduct, to shaping an Airman’s mentality that will be crucial for SERE operations in the worst of situations.

The U.S. Air Force is looked to as the subject matter experts for SERE training, and is the only service to operate a full, career-long SERE Specialist cadre.

It wasn’t long ago when the Air National Guard was required to rely on their active duty counterparts to train aircrew members who needed to be SERE qualified. When the National Guard Bureau approved 10 unit-level SERE Specialist positions for ANG Operational Support Squadrons in 2014, Miner took the opportunity to join the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, West Virginia and began his transition from active duty. He chose the 130th AW for a simple reason, to be closer to his family in his home state of New York, and hasn’t looked back.

Since coming onboard, Miner has been providing the 130th AW’s aircrew, which consists of pilots, navigators, flight engineers, loadmasters and aeromedical evacuation personnel, with the most current training in local area survival, combat survival, conduct after capture, water survival and emergency parachute training. In addition to that, Miner also assists with unit-level personnel recovery responsibilities such as Isolated Personnel Report Program (ISO-PREP), evasion plans of action and individual issue personnel recovery kits.

The most challenging part of his transition was his arrival, he said, and being tasked with developing a SERE program at the 130th AW.

“It was a big learning curve for me, the Guard is just such a unique and different setting,” he explained. “Here we practically have 48 hours a month, not including the allotted training days every year, to get everyone qualified, on top of trying to realize that you’re only one priority on a huge list of the Commander’s readiness spectrum.”

Miner’s reach just isn’t to the 130th AW though, he also gives a hand to units that don’t have the privilege of a SERE Specialist, as do fellow specialists from across the Air Guard. From the 130th AW’s “sister unit,” the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, to places as far away as Puerto Rico and Washington, Miner’s training has enhanced numerous units’ survival outcome.

“We don’t have a written agreement or anything, just when we have time, we help,” Miner said. “So many units don’t get the proper training since unqualified personnel have to give them what knowledge they can, and we have to try to fill those gaps.”

Miner has grown to appreciate his new home in West Virginia. Being an avid outdoorsman, he claims that he’s enjoyed discovering all that the state has to offer and that West Virginia would be the perfect setting for an east coast version of SERE School.

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It is obvious that Miner takes pride in his career.

To Miner, his job isn’t just a day-in, day-out, nine-to-five job. It’s spending nights outside in the wilderness, traveling across the country and experiencing some of the most beautiful places the United States has to offer. More than anything, he said, it’s knowing that if something happened to the people he has trained, he could be the reason they make it back home safe.

Story and photos by Airman 1st Class Caleb Vance, 130th Airlift Wing Air National Guard Public Affairs

Modernizing the Army’s OPFOR Program to Become a Near-Peer Sparring Partner

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

NATIONAL TRAINING CENTER, Calif. — While the United States fought conflicts and insurgencies in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa over the last seventeen years, potential adversaries were studying U.S. operations and developing sophisticated weapons, munitions, and disruptive technologies. U.S. forces must anticipate that adversaries will employ these increasingly advanced systems, some approaching or even surpassing U.S. capabilities, while also proliferating them to their allies and proxies around the globe.

U.S. Army Soldiers, posing as an Opposing Force, operate OPFOR Surrogate Vehicles and Main Battle Tanks at the National Training Center, May 2, 2017. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge)

Both Russia and China, our two most sophisticated strategic competitors, are developing new approaches to conflict by modernizing their concepts, doctrine, and weapon systems to challenge U.S. forces and our allies across all operational domains (land, sea, space, cyberspace, and space). Russia’s New Generation Warfare and China’s Local Wars under Informationized Conditions are two examples of these new approaches.

In the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa, non-state actors and radical militant groups are gaining military capabilities previously associated only with nation-states. Irregular forces are growing more capable as they adopt new weapons and tactics. Hezbollah has used advanced anti-tank guided missiles, man-portable air defense systems, and a sophisticated mission command system in its conflicts with Israel and participation in the Syrian civil war. Joining Hezbollah in the employment of unmanned aerial vehicles are Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and ISIS has also used chemical weapons. In addition, Iran adopted a very sophisticated warfare doctrine aimed at the U.S., and the Houthi insurgency in Yemen aims rockets and missiles at Saudi Arabia.

Soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment maneuver through the streets of a compound at the National Training Center, Calif., during an OPFOR training exercise. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Edge)

The U.S. Army exists to fight our nation’s wars and it rigorously prepares to reach the highest possible level of sustained readiness to defeat such a wide array of threats and capabilities. To attain this end state, training at U.S. Army Combat Training Centers, or CTCs, must be realistic, relevant, and pit training units against a dynamic and uncompromising Opposing Force, or OPFOR.

The CTC program employs several professional OPFOR units, including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at the National Training Center in California’s Mojave Desert, the 1-509th Airborne Infantry Battalion within the swamps of Louisiana at the Joint Readiness Training Center, 1-4th Infantry Battalion at the Joint Multinational Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany, and the World Class OPFOR within the Mission Command Training Program at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The Army’s Cyber Command also provides specialized support to these OPFOR units with cyber aggressors.

The OPFOR is representative of adversary forces and threat systems that reflect a composite of current and projected combat capabilities. The OPFOR must be capable of challenging training units’ mission essential tasks and key tasks within the Army Universal Task List. To maintain OPFOR’s relevance as a competitive sparring partner, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command devotes major analytic efforts to studying foreign armies and determining the optimum configuration for OPFOR units that both represent a plausible threat and challenge training tasks. This also requires the Army to consistently modernize the OPFOR with replicated peer or near-peer threat weapons and capabilities.

The OPFOR must be capable of challenging U.S. Army training units with contemporary armored vehicles that are equipped with stabilized weapon systems and advanced night optics, as well as realistic kill-or-be-killed signatures and effects via the Multiple Integrated Laser Effects Systems. The OPFOR must also have air attack platforms, advanced integrated air defense systems, unmanned aerial systems, modern-day anti-tank munitions, long-range and guided artillery fires, and improvised explosive devices.

Additionally, the OPFOR must be capable of subjecting training units to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear effects and technologically enhanced deception capabilities. The OPFOR must also be capable of degrading or denying training unit dependency on Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities with threat electronic warfare, cyberspace, and space effects.

Modernizing the U.S. Army’s OPFOR program is an unremitting endeavor, because threats continuously change and technology relentlessly revolutionizes the art of war. Replicating the most realistic threat capabilities and tactics is critical for training units and commanders to practice their tactics, techniques, and procedures, and learn from the consequences of their decisions under tactical conditions.

This topic, as well as the challenges the OPFOR enterprise faces in developing much-needed capabilities to effectively replicate threats in a dynamic Operational Environment that postulates a changing character of future warfare, will be highlighted during a Warriors Corner at the annual Association of the United States Army meeting in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, Oct. 10, from 2:55-3:35 p.m.

By Mario J. Hoffmann

Asymmetric Warfare Group – Operational Advisor Training Course Small Arms Block Of Instruction

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

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Asymmetric Warfare Group members conduct multiple pistol and rifle drills form different firing positions to transitioning from rifle to pistol as part of the Operational Advisor Training Course (OATC) at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., Sept. 11-13, 2018. The drills they were conducting were designed to: Improve accuracy and efficiency under stressful situations while transitioning from a rifle to a pistol.

OATC is designed to train and prepare Operational Advisors (AOs) for the Group’s global mission to provide operational advisory support to U.S. Army Forces in order to rapidly transfer relevant observations and solutions to the tactical, and operational point of need, to prepare Army Commanders to defeat emerging asymmetric threats and enhance multi-domain effectiveness.

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Sneak Peek – Adaptiv.X Brings Something For The Ladies

Friday, July 6th, 2018

Here’s a a sneak peek at what Adaptiv.X has coming in the near future; functional women’s athletic carry apparel. Designed and developed by Navy SEAL’s (they might know a thing or two about defense). It incorporates their patented IWS technology allowing you to carry whatever self defense tools you could ever need, including their custom designed holsters.

Concealment, comfort, retention and security.

Made in USA. Very early prototype depicted. Shown with holster, G10 blade and pistol magazine pouch. Stay tuned because adaptiv.x is “Changing the way you think by what you wear.”

SFAB – Company Advising Team

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Theres been a lot of debate about what the Security Force Assistance Brigade brings to the table.

The core action element of the SFAB is the Company Advising Team (CAT) which consists of twelve personnel. Senior advisors lead the operations section and the support section. Both of the Infantry or Armor battalions, as well as the Cavalry squadron, can field nine of these teams, which are assigned the warfighting function enablers.

Team Leader = KD CPT 11A/19A
Assistant Team Leader = KD 1SG 11Z/19Z

Operations Senior Advisor = SSG 11B/19D
Intelligence Advisor = SGT 35F/M/N/P
Assistant Operations Advisor = SSG 11B/19D
Fires Advisor = SGT 13F
Explosive Hazard Advisor = SGT 89D/12B
Support Senior Advisor = SSG 11B/19D
Medical Advisor = SGT 68W
Logistics Advisor = SGT 92Y/92A
Communications Advisor = SGT 25U/C/L/S
Maintenance Advisor = SGT 91B

Additional SFAB Bases Announced

Monday, May 21st, 2018

The US Army has announced the final three bases for its new Security Force Assistance Brigades. The 3rd SFAB at Fort Hood, TX; the 4th SFAB at Fort Carson, CO, and 5th SFAB at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA. Tgese john n the 1st at Ft Benning and 2nd at Ft Bragg. SFABs are specialized units whose core mission is to conduct advise-and-assist operations with allied and partner nations.

UF PRO Presents – SIGMA, Latvia’s Border Guards

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

UF PRO presents this video on SIGMA, Latvia’s Border Guards. People, drugs and other contraband, such as tobacco and fuel are being routinely smuggled to Latvia and throughout Europe. More than 2,600 Latvian border guards keep a constant watch over domestic borders. Take a look SIGMA operates.

www.ufpro.si

The Art of the Operational Advisor

Monday, May 7th, 2018

The U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG), headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland, selects, trains, and prepares the most qualified applicants to become Operational Advisors (OAs). Operational Advisors are subject matter experts in their field. They are seasoned warriors who support Army and Joint Force Commanders to enhance Soldier survivability and combat effectiveness, and enable the defeat of current and emerging threats in support of Unified Land Operations.

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Operational Advisors are senior enlisted Soldiers (Sgt. 1st Class and above), Officers (Capt. to Lt. Col.) and Consultants. Most of the consultant Operational Advisors are combat veterans with Special Operations background, who were once senior ranking enlisted and officers, and are now retired from the military. The consultants continue their service supporting AWG deployed in theater and stateside by mentoring, coaching, and providing guidance to the active duty Operational Advisors. These OA consultants are a critical asset to the organization and assist in the overall completion of the mission. All OAs communicate with each other to spread the knowledge from their observations past and present across the formation.

The Asymmetric Warfare Group has a worldwide focus with regionally aligned squadrons. Traveling in small teams, OAs must also be able to accomplish the mission individually with ambiguous instruction to meet the Commanders Intent. As the OAs prepare to conduct a mission, they will gather information that allows them to identify the initial threat situational template and understand the Operational Environment. The OA will then embed with units and gather first hand observations on enemy tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to increase their situational understanding of the threat. As an external observer, AWG OAs can then assist commanders with material or non-material solutions to provide a time sensitive upper hand in a complex and fluid environment. Operational Advisors will think, adapt, and anticipate ensuring mission success.

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It is clear that AWG places emphasis on readiness of all personnel prior to deploying into a combat zone. As a Combat Cameraman (COMCAM) in support of the Asymmetric Warfare Group, I received an extensive amount of training to prepare myself for most missions during my assignment. (This training is a requirement for all OAs, Operational Advisory Support Personnel, and consultants in the organization regardless if scheduled to deploy or not.) I attended the Combat Skills Training Course (CSTC) where advanced and refresher tactics such as shoot, move, communicate, and medicate skills are taught. In addition to immediate and remedial drills, transition drills from primary to alternate weapons, barrier shooting, and several shooting positions are enforced through scenario driven events. I received a class on different communication platforms and their tactical applications in combat. The medical training was an introduction to mass casualty situations and how to categorize patients for treatment and evacuation if an event became catastrophic. I also attended an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) 101 class to get familiarized with all equipment in the personal medical aid kit and how to properly use it. The medic cannot save everyone, but with helping hands from combat lifesavers many battlefield deaths have been prevented simply by someone stopping the bleeding of a casualty. First Aid is a high pay off task and Operational Advisors and OA support personnel go through extensive training to maintain proficiency on this skill.

Integration is a major component of becoming part of the team. After completing CSTC, Charlie Squadron members provided further mentoring to complete additional training and prepare for deployment. Additionally, I attended weekly briefings alongside senior members of the squadron to gain situational awareness of the areas I could be providing support. The squadron’s logistician ensured I was ready to deploy and coordinated for issue of AWGs equipment and weapons. They worked hand in hand assisting me to make sure I had everything I could possibly need in combat and so I could be outfitted and look similar to the advisor I would be shadowing. They helped me coordinate the shipment of my equipment overseas; thus making the deployment official.

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I had the unique opportunity to deploy in May, 2018 with Sgt. 1st Class Roberto (Rob) Crull, an AWG Explosive Ordnance Disposal Advisor from Charlie Squadron to Iraq, as he supported units during Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). I was able to witness first hand how an advisor works from getting into country, to coordinating embeds with an operational element. Prior to departure from the AWG hub in Iraq, we prepared equipment to be self-sufficient so that we would not be a burden on the supported unit. I learned that AWG has the capability to establish expeditionary communications via BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) for secure communication in remote locations. Sgt. 1st Class Crull established a point of contact with the unit to make sure that they could accommodate our stay in their area of operations. Sgt. 1st Class Crull stated that “an OA should never be a hindrance to a unit he/she embeds with. An OA brings everything they need to establish all forms of communications to include solar kits for power for when in austere environments.”

Upon arrival to the unit we were supporting, Sgt. 1st Class Crull met with leadership, introduced himself, gave a capabilities brief on his role, why he was in their area of operations, and presented an overview of what he was looking to accomplish. Once communication was established within the unit, I witnessed the relationships immediately grow between Sgt. 1st Class Crull, unit leaders, and the Soldiers around the area. Sgt. 1st Class Crull quickly became an icon as many Soldiers opened up to him with the many challenges they faced. Sgt. 1st Class Crull and I made ourselves a part of that team by sleeping in the transient tent with the Soldiers versus being in a VIP tent away from unit members, which is what the camp mayor was trying to do out of generosity. A humble servant spirit is necessary to operate with AWG.

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An incident occurred during my time with him where the supporting unit had to respond to a Fallen Angel crisis in their area of operations. Sgt. 1st Class Crull’s past experience in Fallen Angel incidents and mine in forensic photography to assist investigators played a vital role in this unfortunate situation. Sgt. 1st Class Crull was able to integrate us into the flow of operations to assist during the crisis. We loaded into vehicles and moved out with the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to the site. My initial impression was that this was enemy related and my training prepared me to respond with force if necessary. I was ready to perform my duties as a Soldier and secure the site. My training allowed me to be confident in my abilities and calm under stress, but also to respond accordingly. Nothing can prepare you mentally for how to respond to all situations. It is true what they say, in stressful situations your training will kick in and it’s like you automatically know what you have to do. Once the scene was secure and all heroes were recovered from the site, I switched from rifleman to a combat photographer. I began to take photos of the scene to paint the picture for the investigators before the scene could have been contaminated from wind or operational disturbance.

Unit members in the supported unit, valued the knowledge that Sgt. 1st Class Crull presented. Before our departure from the unit, Sgt. 1st Class Crull was able to provide advice and “Make the Unit in Contact Better”. I learned that an Operational Advisor has extensive resources and reach back capabilities, providing the units in contact with rapid solutions. Everything the OA does is based on building relationships within units and earning their trust. The supporting unit was very thankful and opened the doors for him to return. Sgt. 1st Class Crull bolsters the term “quiet professional” and is a great representation of AWG. This was a great experience and I was able to see how AWG operates from a tactical and operational perspective.

The OAs job is never-ending. Upon returning to the states they must gather their observations from the duration of the deployment for post mission dissemination. Those observations are non-attributable towards any specific unit, and identify ways to properly assist the fighting force to defeat current and future threats. The process then starts over and the OA will engage with units during home station training and also at the Combat Training Centers (CTC) to support the next deployment.

When talking to Sgt. 1st Class Crull during one of my days with him, he stated the Charlie Squadron Commander’s vision and in his own words what an AWG Operational Advisor does:

“We strive to make units in contact better by understanding the enemy and the complex operating environment while moving to the sound of guns. AWG is not there to tell a unit they are doing things wrong, we are there to identify outdated doctrine and friendly TTPs so that units in contact can adapt. Successes of operational solutions can then be carried forward to units deploying and currently deployed across the globe” Lt. Col. Kirk Liddle, Charlie Squadron Commander.

Earning the title of an Operational Advisor is not for everyone. The job is very demanding, but the rewards are endless. Once you are part of the Asymmetric Warfare Group, you become part of the AWG family. Families make lifelong bonds through the unique experience of a high operations tempo environment. If you wish to make a difference and be part of the solution, apply for selection at www.awg.army.mil.

Photos feature U.S. Army SSG Jeremiah Hall and SFC Roberto Crull, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Operational Advisor with Charlie Squadron, Asymmetric Warfare Group, waits at a landing zone for transport at a Forward Tactical Assembly Area in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, Mar. 22, 2018. AWG provides operational advisory support globally and rapid solution development to enhance survivability and combat effectiveness, and enable the defeat of current and emerging threats in support of Unified Land Operations. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Randis Monroe)

Story by SGT Randis Monroe, AWG