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PACAF Visits Kunsan AB, Validates Next-Gen Aircrew Protection

Saturday, January 28th, 2023

KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS) —

Pacific Air Forces recently deployed a joint team of representatives and subject matter experts to Kunsan Air Base, conducting the major command’s first test and validation of counter-chemical warfare tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTP.

These tests are part of the Next Generation Aircrew Protection program, designed to ensure aircrew have proper chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear, or CBRN, protective equipment and that CBRN measures are modernized to meet emerging threats while maintaining peak human performance.

“Current aircrew and pilot CBRN protective equipment are effective but restrictive and burdensome, thus hindering combat effectiveness,” said Chief Master Sgt. Charles Hall, PACAF aircrew flight equipment major command functional manager. “The Air Force realized this in late 2021 and early 2022 and set aside about $16 million to conduct research on aircraft, ground and air testing across various platforms to collect quantitative and qualitative data.”

Armed with the data, researchers refined existing TTPs to better equip aircrews, like Kunsan AB’s, with the tools necessary to continue the ‘Fight Tonight’ mission.

“Wing commanders have an associated risk attached to nearly every decision they make,” said Senior Master Sgt. Ryan Rios, PACAF AFE command manager. “With the integrated data and refined TTPs, wing commanders now have additional information to help them make those tough decisions and continue executing their mission should a CBRN event occur.”

The TTPs are the brainchild of Col. Daniel Roberts, who now serves as 97th Medical Group commander at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

“Risk is ever-present,” Roberts said. “Looking at combat operations in a chemical environment brings the question to mind; ‘How does one balance and right-size risk to improve combat effectiveness?’ Thinking this way allowed us to improve human performance and the ability of our ground crews to turn aircraft in an effective manner so our combat forces are ready when called upon.”

The program’s tests and validations affected several base agencies to include the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons, 8th Operations Support Squadron AFE, 8th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management, 8th Maintenance Group and the 8th Medical Group bioenvironmental engineering flight.

Participating Airmen tested the updated CBRN TTPs safely and efficiently by stepping, launching and recovering a flying mission in a simulated chemical filled environment.

The PACAF team is scheduled to validate every installation within the MAJCOM and ultimately will establish standardized PACAF-wide counter-chemical warfare aircrew protection measures. Efforts like this help ensure Kunsan AB maintains maximum combat readiness capabilities to support a free and open Indo-Pacific.

By SSgt Isaiah J. Soliz, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Det 1, 24th SOW Trains In Alaska

Wednesday, January 25th, 2023

24th Special Operations Wing D-Cell, Pioneers of the ACE Concept, Hone Arctic Skills in Alaska

Air Force Special Tactics Airmen with the 24SOW, Detachment 1, aka “D-Cell”, provided security while an Alaska Army National Guard HH-60M Black Hawk landed at Camp Mad Bull during CASEVAC training.

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Agile Combat Employment is one of the most talked-about concepts in the Air Force. The ability to rapidly deploy and establish forward operating locations, manned by multi-capable Airmen, is the way the Air Force is crafting the future of warfare.

The Airmen of the 24th Special Operations Wing, Detachment 1, also known as Deployment Cell or “D-Cell,” have been doing just this for over 60 years.

The unit, based out of MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, consists of 54 members across 15 career fields, forming four agile teams. These teams of multi-capable Airmen are trained in 49 cross-functional tasks including Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape training, advanced shooting, and advanced combat casualty care.

The primary role of D-Cell is to “bare base,” which is to rapidly turn undeveloped locations into fully functional bases.

“The unique thing about us is that we have small teams that can go anywhere,” said Master Sgt. Nathan Johnson, a logistics superintendent and D-Cell Bravo Flight lead. “And because we can do other jobs, we can set up a bare base extremely fast, extremely efficiently.”

Due to working in such light and agile teams, being multi-capable Airmen is essential for mission success.

“Most of our Airmen are at – and I can say this comfortably – at probably a three-level in each other’s career fields, and some even a five-level,” said Master Sgt. Sammy Bridges, security forces superintendent and D-Cell Delta Flight lead.

“If I fall out, the next guy on my team, even though he might be a power [production] guy working on a generator, or he might be a services guy, guess what? He can still upload an aircraft,” added Staff Sgt. Jonathan Webb, an air transportation craftsman. “That [multi-capable Airman] concept is more than what you think it is.”

With their visibilities shifting towards future areas of operation, the unit visited Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), Alaska, Jan. 6 through 10, 2023, to test their operating capabilities in extreme-cold weather environments.

“We’re out here to see if we can validate the Arctic side of what we have to do,” explained Johnson. “We’ve been in a certain part of the world for a long time, and mindsets are changing over where we could go. This is so we can test what we’ve been doing since the ’60s in a cold environment.”

The team spent their time in Alaska operating out of Camp Mad Bull, a training area on JBER designed to provide realistic austere operating conditions to test unit capabilities.

“You’re used to building and being at different locations for the past 20 years, where the whole [Department of Defense] has been, right?” said Johnson. “So now you come up here in a different environment, and you have to test yourself in that sense it’s zero degrees here versus where you’re used to building in 90 degrees [weather].”

Over the week, D-Cell worked on troop movement in extreme cold and deep snow, tent construction, and night operations, all of which culminated into a simulated combat scenario.

The Airmen also spent two days working with the Alaska National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment. One day was spent in a classroom with the regiment’s medevac unit, where they learned cold-weather specific tactical combat casualty care. The aviators also supported the training’s final combat scenario, providing medevacs to the simulated combat’s casualties.

“We’ve done medical training, [tactical combat casualty care] and things of that nature… now we’re getting knowledge from the Soldiers up here, who do things in the mountains and Arctic environment,” said Webb. “Pulling that knowledge of how you treat hypothermia, how you treat frostbite …. versus what we dealt with the past 20 years in a different [area of responsibility].”

“It wasn’t even necessarily the Arctic cold weather training, but it was the questions, the back-and-forth of it,” he continued. “You can read a book on it all day long, but if you’re talking to the author, you’ll get those little details. It’s good to have that insight.”

After the training wrapped up, the team prepared to leave the sub-zero temperatures of Alaska and return to the warm beaches of Florida – bringing back a new set of skills and validated capabilities.

“As leads, not only were we thinking about the actual build and the project,” said Johnson. “From my perspective, it’s about the personalities and the camaraderie. When you put people in an austere location in a stressful situation, whether it be from external weather or threats, how can those people come together and work as a team and react? It’s been an awesome experience together.”

By Senior Airman Patrick Sullivan, 673d ABW/PA

WEPTAC 2023: Solving Enterprise-Level Challenges

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) —  

U.S. and international combat air forces senior leaders participated in the Weapons and Tactics Conference and C2 Summit at Nellis Air Force Base, Jan. 2-13.

WEPTAC is Air Combat Command’s annual pinnacle of tactics and warfare with a charge to accelerate the modernization and development of solutions for the joint employment of forces across the range of Air Force core warfighting functions.

“There is a common saying of ‘As goes Nellis, so goes the Air Force,” said Maj. Gen. David Lyons, ACC director of operations, in a speech to an audience of nearly 1,400 U.S. and allied service members. “The primary focus of WEPTAC is the National Defense Strategy and therefore the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. We are here at the nexus of airpower to advise and shape our nation’s warfighting prowess.”

Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Pacific Air Forces commander, gave the keynote address to this year’s summit and WEPTAC attendees, emphasizing a need for constant forward motion with innovation as a requirement for mission success.

“Innovation will be the key to ultimately winning the next fight,” Wilsbach said. “Improvements in innovation talked about at previous years’ WEPTACs can be seen in PACAF today.”

Lyons added that while focus on emerging technologies and processes like the Advanced Battle Management System are critical to the Air Force maintaining competitive advantage in the Indo-Pacific, effective employment of warfighting constants like mobility and logistics capabilities also remain vital to success in conflict in the region.

“Do not wish away logistics. There is no room for error when we look at the tyranny of distance in the Pacific,” Lyons said. “You cannot overlook tanker plans, logistics and sustainment, weapons, communications and mission-type orders. Think about and talk about these things, including swap-out plans, rejoin plans from disparate locations, and comm-out mission planning – there is nothing we can’t tackle when we put our minds to it.”

Along with the tyranny of distance in the Pacific, fiscal and political constraints limit the establishment of new enduring air bases. To address these challenges, the Air Force introduced Agile Combat Employment, or ACE: a proactive and reactive operational scheme of maneuver executed within threat timelines to increase survivability while generating air-combat power.

“ACE will expand the envelope in the next fight; it will be a highly contested environment,” Wilsbach said. “ACE needs to be exercised in every squadron, every day.”

The National Defense Strategy states that to enable our military advantage in the air domain for the long term. We must shift away from legacy platforms and weapons systems that are decreasing in relevance today and will be irrelevant in the future.

Addressing the Air and Space Force senior leaders in the audience, Lyons highlighted the multi-disciplinary specialists conducting WEPTAC’s various working groups.

“We have provided you experts of multiple disciplines to inform your solutions and outputs across multiple programs and resources to provide tangible, feasible decisions to support our conclusions,” he noted.

WEPTAC’s scope and purpose brings the future faster and accelerates change in the United States Air Force. In its 23rd year, WEPTAC continues to provide feedback from warfighters directly to general officers and decision-makers that lead to substantive enhancements and improvements across the Joint Force, both from tactics development and science and technology advancement recommendations.

Wilsbach concluded his speech with a straightforward charge, “It’s not going to be easy, but we must put in the work. No shortcuts.”

Story by Michael J. Hasenauer, Nellis Air Force Base Public Affairs

Photo by Airman 1st Class Josey Blades

Multi-Capable Airmen Lead the Way for 443rd AES

Saturday, January 21st, 2023

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFNS) —  

A team of Multi-Capable Airmen at Al Asad Air Base stepped out of their traditional responsibilities to become vital force multipliers for joint and coalition partners across the installation.

Embracing MCA, a defender and a client systems technician from the 443rd Air Expeditionary Squadron became skilled in communication capabilities and setting up technical communication equipment, taking it upon themselves to become proficient in skills they traditionally wouldn’t have been required to learn.

This drive started from the moment they arrived. By capitalizing on an opportunity to innovate and increase efficient and effective communication capabilities for the Airmen around him, Senior Airman Byron McNeill Jr., 443rd AES supply and security forces fireteam lead, decided to face the challenge head-on.

McNeill crafted a plan alongside Staff Sgt. Daniel Meeks, 443rd AES client systems technician, within a few days of arriving on the installation.

“I knew that we had a frequency that was supposed to work but didn’t, and I knew that we should be getting further range with our radios than what they were getting,” McNeill said. “My leadership gave me the chance, and I just took the opportunity and ran with it. Then, it was just collaborating with everyone around me and finding out trial and errors with the radios.”

A defender coming to the 443rd AES with prior radio operation experience, McNeill’s collaboration with Meeks has paid dividends for the installation.

“We call each other almost every day asking each other about things,” Meeks said. “He’s strong-willed with what he wants done and he gets it done. It’s been easygoing with him. We’ve improved our communication capabilities already in just our first month of being here.”

Feeding off each other’s skill sets, they have raised three communication antennas and boosted long-range communications in multiple mine-resistant ambush protected all-terrain vehicles. They assisted and reprogrammed Norwegian Armed Forces radios and were able to get communication capabilities immediately restored. McNeill and Meeks have also held classes with other 443rd AES defenders, giving them the skills to troubleshoot their communication equipment and change their radio frequencies to respond to any situation.

Ensuring communication capabilities are effective and efficient for others, while teaching the next Multi-Capable Airman, is what continues to fuel both.

“Communication is the biggest thing in any scenario,” McNeill said. “Being able to give the warfighter the ability to talk to one another and to talk to higher-ups, brings it all together. There are no mistakes when good communication is in play.”

By Staff Sergeant Dalton Williams, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Special Tactics, AMC Airmen Spearhead Agile Combat Employment Concepts During Mission Generation Exercise

Thursday, January 12th, 2023

POPE FIELD, N.C. —

Special Tactics Airmen assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing participated in a mission generation exercise on Jan. 5, 2023, alongside Air Mobility Command aircrews.

The 437th and 315th Airlift Wings launched 24 C-17 Globemaster IIIs from Joint Base Charleston to conduct the exercise and integrate with Air Force, Army, and Marine forces across five operating locations.

Several C-17s landed at Pope Army Airfield after the initial launch to establish a tactical operations center and conduct an airfield seizure with multiple special tactics teams.

“This exercise is about readiness and lethality,” said Maj. Zachary Barry, C-17 pilot and lead planner for the exercise. “We wanted to get as many aircraft as possible off the deck in a 48-hour timespan, to tell pacing threats that we can go anywhere, anytime.”

The airfield seizure took place on Fort Bragg’s Holland Landing Zone. There, Special Tactics teams secured the perimeter, established the airfield, and executed a follow-on clearance of nearby outposts.  

Working alongside AMC aircrews allows Special Tactics teams to plan for operations in joint environments to maximize lethality as an air and joint force.

“Exercises like these require detailed planning but pay dividends when complete,” said a 24th Special Operations Wing Special Tactics officer. “Agile combat employment is paramount to our success as an Air Force, and incorporating Special Tactics teams into exercises like this benefits everyone involved.”

Combining these skillsets with mobility air forces like those from the 437th AW demonstrates the need to get ahead of the nation’s pacing challenges. Mission generation takes competencies from across the U.S. Air Force and connects them with capabilities from the joint force to maneuver past tomorrow’s challenges and enhance combat readiness.

By 1st Lt Victor A. Reyes, 24 SOW Public Affairs

Yokota AB Participates in Multilateral New Year’s Jump Exercise

Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) —  

A multilateral collaboration of U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, British army, Australian army, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members conducted an annual New Year’s Jump exercise at Camp Narashino, Jan. 8.

Roughly 400 paratroopers participated in the event jumping from three U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron, one C-130H Hercules and one C-2 Greyhound assigned to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force.

“The New Year’s Jump is the first big event of the year hosted by JGSDF,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Kevin Mendez, 36th Airlift Squadron pilot. “Doing this event has been a longstanding tradition with our allied partners to welcome the new year in the spirit of continued safe operations.”

This event marks a return to a diverse representation of forces participating since the COVID-19 pandemic began, allowing a renewal in partnerships while celebrating the first jump of the year with allies.

“This New Year’s jump event was an opportunity to learn from each other and improve together with our partner nations,” said U.S. Army Col. Christopher Ward, 11th Airborne Division chief of staff. “The true value of what we did here today in not only conducting a multilateral jump to celebrate the New Year, but to also increase our ability to conduct better airborne operations in a joint environment forward in the Pacific theater. Events like this and others builds readiness.”

Teamwork is a military strength at all levels, from small teams to large scale joint force operations, and the annual NYJ exercise is a commitment to maintaining flexible allied interoperability. This display of strength and capability acts as a deterrent to peer adversaries, and as a promise to the lasting friendship of partner forces.

“Our goal is to fortify our interoperability with our international allies through these jumps,” Mendez said. “Integration events like this help enhance interoperability between the U.S. and Japan Self-Defense Forces in the event of a real-world contingency.”

The New Year’s Jump kicks off a series of bilateral training exercises for Yokota AB, which have long since aimed to increase the combat readiness and friendships between the U.S. and its international partners.

Story by Senior Airman Hannah Bean, 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Photos by Staff Sergeant Braden Anderson and Airman 1st Class Brooklyn Golightly

Colorado’s 138th Space Control Squadron Pioneers New Training

Friday, January 6th, 2023

SCHRIEVER SPACE FORCE BASE, Colo. — The Colorado Air National Guard’s 138th Space Control Squadron, in conjunction with the National Space Test and Training Complex, conducted a training event named “Neptune Falcon,” which took place at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado, to test new capabilities for meeting wartime objectives in the space domain. 

The exercise, held over 10 days in October 2022 at a newly created forward operating base by Airmen of the 138th, simulated real-world expeditionary operations and prepared them for upcoming deployments. 

“This is a Secretary of Defense level joint interoperability exercise that includes aircraft from Air Combat Command, space participants from the 138th Space Control Squadron, Colorado Air National Guard, and the 25th Space Range Squadron, as well as a host of other participants,” U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Andy Gold, commander,138th SPCS, said.

There have been many significant milestones that the 138th SPCS has led along the way, according to Gold.

“This is the first time a U.S. Air Force or Air National Guard weapons system has ever connected to the Range Closed Loop Environment,” Maj. Matthew Thampy, assistant director of operations, 25th Space Range Squadron, said. “The RCLE provides a highly realistic electronic warfare system to train and test our systems.”

This is also the first time the RCLE has been requested by a combatant command to support a joint interoperability exercise, such as Neptune Falcon. Additionally, this marks the first Total Force event (integration of Active Duty and Reserve forces) in which the combatant command and Air National Guard unit employed the RCLE, paving the way for future support for the broader Department of Defense need of realistic, dynamic environments to support the warfighter.

“During this exercise, we are training to deal with crew dynamics, tactics, techniques, and procedures, as well as getting hands-on system time,”  U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Lindsey Sequoia, 138th SPCS space control operator, and Neptune Falcon participant, said. “Getting that practice on how to respond in a real-world scenario is invaluable to me.”

Neptune Falcon also signifies a key Total Force Integration partnership for future training and test events involving the National Guard Bureau, Space Operations Command, and Space Training and Readiness Command.

“Events like this also meet key U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force directives for highly realistic training events/scenarios in preparing Guardians, Airmen for war,” Thampy said.

The 138th SPCS stood up in May 2019 and has rapidly improved the training environment to create the most realistic wartime scenarios possible, preparing space professionals for future wartime missions. Forward Operating Base Schriever is the latest iteration of technological advances in training for the members, which creates a superior training environment never before experienced by Air National Guard or Active Duty space warriors.

By Mr. John Rohrer, 140th Wing Public Affairs

AFCENT’s Innovation Task Force 99 Establishes Ops, HQ

Friday, December 30th, 2022

AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS) —  

Less than two months following the establishment of Task Force 99, Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich, Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central) commander, visited the team at their new location for a peek behind the curtain of the command’s innovation powerhouse Dec. 1.

The new unit is the cornerstone of AFCENT’s approach to U.S. Central Command’s intent of building a Culture of Innovation. Comprised of eight full time multi-capable Airmen, its mission is to leverage digital and unmanned technologies, creating dilemmas for adversaries and new opportunities for collaboration with partners.

“[Task Force 99] a small group of super-empowered Airmen who I’m going to provide resources to so they can rapidly innovate and experiment in our area of responsibility we have in the Middle East,” said Grynkewich at the 2022 Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference in September.

The “Desert Catalysts” became an official Air Force organization Oct. 13, when Lt. Col. Erin Brilla took command. Agility and speed underwrite TF 99’s innovation core tenets, and the unit wasted no time setting up shop.

“Our humble beginnings started in a borrowed workspace graciously loaned to us by 379th Air Expeditionary Wing’s Desert Spark Innovation Lab. Within one month of being established, we were able to acquire this new workspace,” Brilla said. “Thanks to our incredible Qatari partners, a new hangar constructed specifically for Task Force 99 may also be in the works.”

In keeping with the command’s Partner for Strength priority, TF 99 will seek input and support from regional partners.

“[Task Force 99] will receive resources to rapidly innovate and experiment in austere and sometimes dangerous environments,” Grynkewich said. “It will also expand the collaborative space with our partners in the region and tie AFCENT into the innovation ecosystem.”

To date, 17 coalition partners have been invited to join TF 99’s efforts, encouraging all to bring their own hard problems and technologies for collaboration and regional synergy.

“None of us have enough time or money to do this on our own,” Brilla said. “We need an expansive network that shares ideas so we all can work together to solve complex problems from the lowest possible echelon.”

TF 99’s hard charging Airmen were hand-picked from a wide variety of specialties, ranging from cyber operators to civil engineers and intelligence analysts to metal technicians.

“These Airmen are the very embodiment of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force’s Accelerate, Change, or Lose mantra,” Brilla said. “Every member of our small, highly skilled, agile team is a subject matter expert in their field. We’ve empowered and encouraged them to experiment, tinker, and wonder ‘what if?’ given a few resources and high-risk tolerance, there’s no limit to what they can deliver.”

The team is empowered to accelerate change by getting after all four of the Air Force Chief of Staff’s Action Orders Airmen, Bureaucracy, Competition and Design.

The task force is also focused on flattening communication across the various innovation labs, and spark cells that exist at AEWs across the CENTCOM area of responsibility to encourage crosstalk and collaboration.

In addition to collaborating with the innovation arms of the U.S. Navy Central Command, TF 59, and the U.S. Army Central Command, TF 39, this air domain innovation task force (TF 99) also leverages relationships with partners across other arenas.

“We are interoperable by nature,” Brilla said. “To be successful, we want to unlock, embrace, and then uplift innovative solutions that can be implemented across organizations.”

Over the next two weeks, the task force will travel to the United States to connect with various vendors, leaders within academia and several government agencies. TF 99 is also sponsoring technology development through the Small Business Innovation Research program to power innovative solutions rapidly.

The task force is also leveraging relationships with the U.S. Air Force Academy by sharing real world, operational problem sets with cadets, giving them an opportunity to create innovative solutions as part of their curriculum.

TF 99 is actively recruiting the next generation of Desert Catalysts, seeking hard-charging innovators from active duty, the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves who might be interested in joining this elite team on future deployment rotations.

“Innovation allows us to better posture our forces, to better sense the environment, to more effectively deter and defeat threat actors,” said Army Gen. Erik Kurilla, CENTCOM commander. “Together through innovation, we can all do much more to advance the stability of the region.”

Story by Capt Kayshel Trudell

Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central)

Photo by Senior Airman Micah Coate