Archive for the ‘Air Force’ Category

LEAP: The Solution to Language, Culture Barriers in Large-Scale Military Exercises

Saturday, November 4th, 2023

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS) — Large-scale military exercises across all branches focus heavily on integration with allies and partners as a cornerstone of the National Defense and National Security strategies. While seamless execution of this integration can pose a challenge when differences in language and culture are present, the Air Force Culture and Language Center offers a solution to overcome those barriers — the Language Enabled Airman Program.

A recent article in defense trade publication highlighted the cultural and language challenges U.S. Air Force leaders faced during exercise Northern Edge 2. U.S. Air Force pilots worked with their Japanese and French pilot counterparts during this exercise to demonstrate the concept of agile combat employment, which relies on working with allies and partners in the region for success. Exercise leaders emphasized the need to overcome language barriers before they could effectively accomplish the mission.

While focus is often placed on the tactical process of working side by side with ally and partner nations, many military leaders now recognize the critical importance of having cultural and language understanding along with technical expertise for true integration.

“The Department of the Air Force seeks to strengthen international relationships and work with our partners to build shared air and space capabilities and capacity, but we can’t stay connected and continue to strengthen relationships with our allies and partners if we don’t understand them,” Brig. Gen. William Freeman, Air War College commandant, said during a recent Facebook live event. “We need Airmen with language, regional expertise and culture skills to accomplish this.”

That’s where LEAP comes in. The program serves as a force multiplier throughout the Department of Defense with a bench of more than 3,400 multi-capable, language-enabled Airmen who have proficiencies in language, regional expertise and culture across 97 strategic languages.

LEAP scholars are ready to deploy, at a moment’s notice, with the language, culture and technical skills needed in diverse environments to strengthen strategic connections with partners and allies and enable agile combat employment, or ACE.

“Language, regional expertise and culture skills are an enabler of ACE because it’s the only path to the type of integration that produces dominance in operational tempo when we’re working with our partners and allies,” said Howard Ward AFCLC director. “To defeat the strategy of our adversaries, our operational output as a team must be greater than the sum of the parts. LREC skills, in the hands of a force integrated by design with partners and allies, are required to produce that level of winning capability.”

Recently, LEAP scholars have supported several large-scale missions in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command region across all branches of service to help advance a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” as instructed in the Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Gen. Mike Minihan, commander of Air Mobility Command, utilized LEAP scholars to enhance understanding and integration with partners and allies during the command’s largest-ever full-spectrum readiness exercise, Mobility Guardian 23.

“Mobility Guardian 23 focused heavily on enabling ACE with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, which cannot happen if we don’t understand each other. Having LEAP scholars in the mix during the exercise helped us take integration and understanding to a new level to lay the groundwork for a fortified, integrated and agile joint team ready to fight and win against our adversaries,” he said.

Cope North is another large-scale annual exercise held in the Indo-Pacific region where LEAP scholars played a key role in facilitating partnership building for the Air Force. Cope North 23 was a multilateral field training exercise focused on integration of large-force employment, ACE and humanitarian and disaster relief training. During this event, two Japanese LEAP scholars worked alongside Air Force airfield experts to facilitate an exchange of skills with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force partners.

“Having support from language-enabled Airmen for this event is invaluable and vital for mission success. Cope North is historically the number one or two highest priorities in Pacific Air Forces out of roughly 47 annual exercises, and the linguist support enabled the Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force to further interoperability with our Japan Air Self-Defense Force allies,” Cope North lead planner Lt. Col. David Overstreet said.

During Kamandag 6, a large-scale Marine Corps exercise held in the Philippines, LEAP scholars provided critical culture and language support along with their technical expertise from their career fields to completely transform the way servicemembers connected by bridging language and cultural gaps to strengthen the strategic bond between the two nations.

Brig. Gen. Jimmy Larida, Philippine Marine Corps, 3rd Marine Brigade, commanding general, emphasized the positive impact LEAP scholar support had on this exercise.

 “In the 34 times that I have performed exercises with the U.S. Marine Corps, this is the first time that they’ve attached [LEAP] linguists — linguists who are truly one of us. And it has made a huge difference. My Marines trust them, and my Marines are drawn to them. This needs to happen, every single time from here on out,” he said.

 Marine Corps Col. Thomas Siverts, commander, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit/Marine Rotational Force-Southeast Asia, also highlighted the critical importance of LEAP support to the success of Kamandag 6.

 “The LEAP team enabled us to quickly establish trust with the 3rd Marine Brigade, and they facilitated an exceptional environment where both forces could learn from each other using our native languages,” he said. “The result was a great exercise that developed relationships, trust and interoperability at an unmatched pace. I will never do another bi-lateral exercise without requesting the language and cultural expertise that LEAP was able to provide.”

All DOD and intergovernmental agencies can utilize LEAP scholars for interpretation and translation support in exercises, conferences and other missions. To request LEAP scholar support, visit the Air Force Culture and Language Center website and select the Training Partnership Request option in the sidebar menu.

Story by Mikala McCurry

Air Force Culture and Language Center Outreach Team

Photo by Airman 1st Class Spencer Perkins

Foreign Air Attachés Visit AFSOC

Thursday, November 2nd, 2023


Air Force Special Operations Command welcomed Air Attachés from 12 various allied and partner nations to Hurlburt Field, Florida, October 23, 2023.  

Attaché tours are a key function of the Department of the Air Force Foreign Liaison Office, which organizes the engagements to enhance partners’ understanding of American history and culture and enable firsthand experience with U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force operations and structure. 

During their visit, the Air Attachés were provided with a comprehensive briefing on several key aspects of AFSOC. This included an overview of the command’s history, which dates back to its establishment in 1990. This historical context was provided to the Air Attachés, offering them a deeper understanding of the command’s evolution and the critical role it has played in operations across the globe. 

Later on, Lt Gen Tony Bauernfeind, AFSOC commander, engaged with the Air Attachés and introduced them to the AFSOC mission and capabilities.  

The Air Attachés had the unique opportunity to delve into AFSOC’s array of aircraft and mission sets visiting static displays and learning from subject matter experts.   

The United States Air Force Special Operations School also gave a briefing highlighting the school’s mission. The Air Attachés were provided insights into AFSOC’s joint and combined training efforts as well as special operations best practices.  

“Our enduring relationships with allies and partners are a cornerstone to our enhanced readiness,” said Bauernfeind. “Engagements like these help educate our allies and partners on the unique capabilities and opportunities that our command can provide and strengthen our connections for future combined operations.” 

This visit served as a valuable opportunity to enhance international cooperation and understanding. By sharing insights into AFSOC’s history, mission sets, and collaborative training efforts, this visit contributed to strengthening the bonds between allied and partnered nations, furthering our collective commitment to global security. 

Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs

Climatic Lab Returns Home Under 96th Test Wing

Tuesday, October 31st, 2023


After almost eight years, Eglin Air Force Base’s McKinley Climatic Lab returns to 96th Test Wing possession as of Oct. 1.

The realignment moves the lab from Arnold Engineering Development Complex back to the 96th Range Group. A 2016 Air Force Test Center consolidation moved the lab under the unit at Arnold AFB, Tennessee.

The return, to better align with local infrastructure and Eglin AFB’s test and evaluation missions, puts the Lab back under the 782nd Test Squadron.

The capabilities available at the Lab help engineers ensure maximum reliability and operational capability of complex systems as global operational theaters continue to impose harsh environments.

Tests at the facility for the Department of Defense, other government agencies and private industry included items such as large aircraft, tanks, missile launchers, shelters, engines, automobiles and tires.

The Climatic Laboratory has five testing chambers: the main chamber; the equipment test chamber; the sun, wind, rain and dust chamber; the salt fog chamber and the altitude chamber.

The main chamber is the largest environmental chamber in the world. At approximately 252 feet wide, 260 feet deep and 70 feet high, tests have consisted of large items and systems for aircraft such as the B-2 Spirit Bomber and the C-5 Galaxy. The temperatures achieved in the chamber range between -65 degrees Fahrenheit to 165 degrees Fahrenheit with a simulation of all climatic conditions including heat, snow, rain, wind, sand and dust.

The equipment test chamber is 130 feet long, 30 feet wide and 25 feet high. Although it is smaller, it has the same capabilities of the main chamber. Tests usually consist of jet engines, small vehicles and turbine-driven ground power units.

The sun, wind, rain and dust chamber produces ambient or hot test conditions. Wind-blown rain at rates up to 25 inches per hour and heavy sand and dust storms can also be created in this chamber.

Because of the corrosive properties of salt fog test conditions, the salt fog chamber was designed to provide an ambient test chamber that is away from other test chambers. The chamber has two steam-fed heat exchangers that create the temperature to perform the salt fog test.

The chamber is approximately 55 feet long, 16 feet wide and 16 feet high. The chamber doesn’t have refrigeration capability.

The altitude chamber can create pressure altitudes as high as 80,000 feet with a temperature capability of -80 degrees Fahrenheit to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The chamber measures 13 by 9 feet and 6 feet high.

By Samuel King Jr., Air Force Test Center

Thunder Challenge 2023: Combat Weather Airmen Showcase Battlefield Skills

Friday, October 27th, 2023


Seven teams of combat weather Airmen competed in Thunder Challenge 2023 at Fort Liberty, North Carolina, Oct. 15-17, 2023.

Thunder Challenge is an annual competition between combat weather Airmen which tests their core weather competencies and battlefield skills to analyze readiness and share best practices throughout the career field. Units from the 5th Combat Weather Group, 1st Combat Weather Squadron, 7th Combat Weather Squadron, 607th CWS and 23d Special Operations Weather Squadron competed in the event.

“Getting together with other combat weather squadrons, learning from them and sharing best practices is critically important,” said Lt. Col. Tyler West, 7th Combat Weather Squadron commander headquartered in Wiesbaden, Germany. “Overall, it’s going to contribute to more combat-ready forces, starting with the teams that competed here and then spreading across the entire community as competitors take the capabilities and drive gained here back to their units.”

During the challenge, competitors manually forecasted weather, operated tactical weather sensing equipment, provided weather impacts in a simulated chemical attack, completed weather knowledge tests, reacted to simulated enemy small arms and explosives attacks, performed base defense, conducted tactical combat casualty care, navigated through forests, conducted a 10-kilometer weighted ruck and completed a course of fire after exercising in gas masks and body armor.

“This is a way for them to really improve their readiness as it requires them to complete these key tasks while under high pressure. We don’t want the first time they do these tasks under that pressure to be when they’re in combat,” said West. “We never know exactly when we’re going to be called upon, so we need everyone to be ready at all times.”

Evaluators aimed to create a high-pressure environment to recreate stressors these Airmen may experience in operational scenarios.

“Having seen these Airmen in the fight today, and the sheer willpower and warrior spirit these Airmen displayed was absolutely phenomenal,” said Col. Patrick Williams, Headquarters Air Force Director of Weather. “It really shows that these guys can do the mission, and I’m proud to call these Airmen warriors.”

Throughout the exercise, senior leaders conducted career field discussions to strategize how to best operationalize weather forces to create battlefield advantages.

“We looked at how we gain opportunities and shape the battlespace to create opportunities for our forces,” Williams said. “Weather operators can forecast the weather to create precision out of chaos, and they soften the battlespace for superiority of all sorts.”

Tech. Sgt. Brandon Hutchinson, Staff Sgt. Hunter Haggerty and Staff Sgt. Nicholas Schlabach from the 23rd SOWS took first place in the competition and will receive an Air Force Achievement Medal for their accomplishment.

“It’s really an honor for us to come here to Fort Liberty and get to participate with all the combat weather teams across the Air Force and showcase our skills and training,” Schlabach said. “We have people coming from around the world here to compete against each other, it really showcases that all our units are training toward the accomplishment of being a combat-ready Airman.”

By 1st Lt Christian Little, Combat Weather

CMSAF Underscores Need for 137th SOW Multi-Capable Airmen

Wednesday, October 25th, 2023


Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass saw firsthand how Airmen with the 137th Special Operations Wing set the Oklahoma Standard across the force during a visit Oct. 12.

She encouraged every service member she met to understand the “why” of the Air Force’s prioritization of learning multiple skill sets and becoming multi-capable Airmen, noting that the wing had leaned into the concept through its mission sustainment team.

“I hope you appreciate learning this skill set that we hopefully will never have to tap into,” Bass said. “We are more focused on reoptimization than we ever have been before. How do we reoptimize what the Air Force looks like to do the number one thing we are supposed to: defend our nation?”

She noted that the variety of civilian and military experience of Air National Guardsmen makes them ready-made to be formed into small mission teams, whether someone is a power production specialist in the Guard and a mechanic as a civilian, or a fireman in the Guard and a carpenter as a civilian.

Staff Sgt. Anthony Hill, 137th SOW Mission Sustainment Team, or MST, member, is a civil engineer Airman and policy analyst for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma as a civilian. He encountered the MCA concept during a previous deployment to Africa where they did not have the equipment and training needed to rapidly establish a base for austere operations.

“The tent systems we were setting up were more difficult and heavier in design, it took a longer time to train individuals and assemble units with those different levels of experience and they required a dedicated power grid,” he said. “The tent systems that are now part of our MST deployment package would have made a huge difference in sustaining the mission in that expeditionary environment.”

Discovering how to better equip Airmen for expedient operations in locations with limited resources has been the focus of the MST since its inception. A photo of the MST’s preliminary training activity was featured in the U.S. Air Force “Profession of Arms” as it calls for Airmen to serve in whatever form is needed to get the mission accomplished while meeting the expected standard of excellence.

“Our number one job is to deter. If deterrence does not succeed, we will make sure that we are able to compete and win. We are not fighting conflicts that we have before. We have to optimize ourselves in the information, space and cyber domains because if you lose in those things, you lose – period.”

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass

Airmen with the 137th Special Operations Group have developed equipment to be compatible with an expeditionary warfare environment. On the tour, Bass encountered the mobile processing, exploitation and dissemination center, which was built to provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in austere locations.

“We were the first to develop this package,” said Tech. Sgt. Stephen Rosebrook, 285th Special Operations Intelligence Squadron, Oklahoma National Guard. “We have since trained active-duty special operations squadrons as well as partner nation forces.”

The 137th SOW mission is to provide forces organized, trained and equipped to support combatant commanders across the spectrum of conflict. Ensuring its citizen air commandos are prepared to deploy to the fight together anytime, anywhere, is a focus of the wing.

“We have got to reprioritze and reoptimize to make sure that we can continue deterring,” Bass said. “It is not our job to predict when challenges and crises and conflict will come, but it is our job to be ready today for anything.”

By TSgt Brigette Waltermire, 137th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

Special Warfare Training Wing: Five Years of Advancing Ground Combat Forces Training

Friday, October 20th, 2023


Five years ago, the U.S. Air Force took a significant leap forward in combat preparedness by establishing the Special Warfare Training Wing (SWTW), an evolution that addressed decades of training shortfalls and operational demands. The SWTW marked a paradigm shift, assuming control over an extensive network of squadrons and detachments. Notably, the wing superseded the former Battlefield Airman Training Group, extending its legacy of ground warfare specialization. Official establishment at JBSA-Lackland was green-lit by SECAF Heather Wilson and materialized on October 17, 2018.

The term “Battlefield Airman” had become somewhat of a misnomer, not fully encapsulating the range of expertise within the unit. The rebranding to “Special Warfare Training Wing” sought to rectify misconceptions, focusing on a collective warrior identity, irrespective of Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs). This new identity was also strategic, positioning the Air Force competitively in the quest for robust recruitment and aligning with joint terminology familiar within military echelons. The change acknowledged the unique needs of these Airmen, from recruitment to combat deployment.

A critical component of this new wing was the Human Performance Support Group (HPSG), tasked with optimizing the ‘human weapon system.’ “Much like the wing, this group is one of a kind and was built upon the lessons of two decades of sustained combat operations,” said Col. Nathan Colunga, Special Warfare Training Wing commander. “The Air Force acknowledged that the harsh nature of ground combat requires a level of care for Special Warfare Airmen not unlike that of high-end weapons systems across our force.” The HPSG provides research, development, testing and evaluation of human performance techniques and tools that can translate into the operational community and more broadly, the rest of the Department of Defense.

Senior Master Sgt. Gregory Navickas, Human Performance Support Group senior enlisted leader, emphasized the power of this integrated approach. The group’s success, according to Navickas, is due to its expert staff, who are “committed to the mission” and excel in their respective fields. Its multidisciplinary team, encompassing medical professionals, physical therapists, coaches, nutritionists, dieticians, and additional combat support staff, who work cohesively across the training enterprise. Their unified vision transcends traditional roles, working collaboratively to preemptively address issues before they escalate. This holistic approach ensures Airmen are comprehensively prepared for combat and receive thorough care afterward, extending into post-military life.

A poignant moment in the young wing’s existence, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Medina Training Annex was officially renamed Chapman Training Annex in March 2020. It is now a tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of Medal of Honor recipient Master Sgt. John A. Chapman, an Air Force combat controller who gave his life fighting to save his teammates’ lives in Afghanistan in 2002. This annex was the beginning of establishing San Antonio, Texas as the “Home of Air Force Special Warfare.” Since making Chapman home, the wing has developed and begun an expansive campus plan that includes the Senior Airman Bradley Smith fitness facility, Forbes Hall renovations, and a monumental new aquatic training center scheduled to open in Spring 2024.

Now five years old, the wing has shown profound progress. “We have attained more consistency and efficiency in the pipeline’” said Michael Delsoldato, Special Warfare Training wing historian. “What we are training our Airmen to do has inherent dangers both in training and in the real world. Although there is always room to improve, the creation of the wing allows full concentration on the holistic production of the Airmen.”  

As warfare evolves in the face of rapid technological advancements, the SWTW stands as a testament to the Air Force’s commitment to adaptability and the continuous pursuit of combat excellence. Its establishment not only signifies the evolution of specialized combat training but also underscores the irreplaceable value of human resilience and adaptability in modern warfare.

“Our mission is the same,” Colunga says. “Prepare these Airmen for the physical and psychological load of close combat. This mission is simply stated, yet as I’ve witnessed, difficult to execute. This load is not theoretical, it is real, well established, and these Airmen make a professional choice to shoulder it. And in doing so they accept the personal risk and sacrifice that goes with it. Therefore, we must prepare them and care for them accordingly – and that is the charge of the Special Warfare Training Wing.”

By Jennifer Gangemi, Special Warfare Training Wing

OSI Takes Aim at Laser Pointers, Aircraft Safety

Monday, October 16th, 2023


As the Office of Special Investigations safeguards the Department of the Air Force, they are confronting a surge in incidents involving laser pointers, which pose significant threats to Air Force aircraft, especially at night. 

These seemingly harmless beams, often used for classroom presentations or amusing a house cat, can also disrupt flight operations and create challenges for pilots. 

“We refer to these as lazing incidents. It’s crucial for the public to understand that aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is not only dangerous but a felony,” said an official from the OSI Center. 

Officials added the importance of real-time reporting and response by all agencies and law enforcement, both stateside and overseas, as a key strategy in addressing these incidents. 

In addition, individuals may incur fines up to $250,000 and face imprisonment for up to five years. 

Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration has the authority to impose civil penalties, with fines escalating to $11,000 per violation and $30,800 for multiple incidents. 

Officials said the necessity of ensuring smooth information lanes, emphasizing that efficient communication between pilots, command posts, OSI and local law enforcement is crucial for rapid responses to incidents. 

“The challenge is not just in reporting the incident. What makes it actionable is the pilot’s ability to specify, with a degree of certainty, a geo-coordinate from which the laser originated,” officials said. 

The effect of a laser beam on pilots is like a camera flash in a pitch-black car at night, resulting in sudden disorientation and temporary blindness. This risk is worse during critical phases of flight, potentially leading to the loss of aircraft and crew, thereby imperiling lives on the ground. 

“These are not harmless pranks. There’s a risk of causing permanent visual impairment. From the public’s standpoint, misusing lasers can severely impact a person’s ability to see and function,” said an OSI Center official. 

According to the FAA, the United States has experienced a notable surge in reported laser incidents, with 2021 marking a 41% increase in aircraft laser strikes compared to the previous year. Since 2010, a total of 244 injuries have been reported, underscoring the escalating and pervasive threat. The nearly 9,500 laser strikes reported to the FAA in 2022 highlight the severity of this growing concern. 

The OSI Center officials underscored the significance of public awareness and reporting. They encourage individuals who witness such incidents to describe the individual, location and event, and report it to both local law enforcement and OSI, regardless of whether the aircraft is military or civilian. 

If you or anyone you know witnessed an individual directing a laser towards an aircraft, report the incident to [email protected] or contact OSI here.

By Thomas Brading, OSI Public Affairs

Officer Training School Embarks on ‘OTS-Victory’

Friday, October 13th, 2023


Officer Training School is implementing a new accessions program aimed at developing Air Force and Space Force leaders who are prepared to compete and win in today’s strategic operating environment.

The new training program, dubbed OTS-Victory, incorporates a five-modular approach designed to enhance the effectiveness of foundational officer development by focusing on specific knowledge, skills and abilities in each module. The course is structured to develop an officer trainee across all foundational competencies within 60 training days.

Officer graduates will be steeped in the Air Force and Space Force competencies through deliberate assessments tied to leadership, mission command, warfighting, communication and professionalism. In the end, OTS’s goal is to produce graduates ready for the challenges in an era of strategic competition.

Starting fiscal year 2024, OTS will conduct, on average, 20 classes per year with a new class starting every two weeks. The additional class start dates promote flexibility for stakeholders, reduces candidates’ wait time to attend training and allows for increased trainee throughput when necessary. At any point, OTS will have up to five classes in session, in various phases of training.

Additionally, the new training construct allows OTS to easily surge production to meet annual production numbers set by Congress in both steady state and contingency mobilization posture. If called, the school can surge up to 26 classes per year.

“Within existing resource authorizations, we are restoring OTS’s ability to serve as the officer accession ‘shock absorber,’ meaning we have the structural agility and organizational effectiveness to respond to production demands during peace or war,” said Col. Keolani Bailey, OTS commandant. “Whether we need to increase or decrease production, we won’t compromise the quality of training.”

In terms of the instructor cadre, they are now afforded the opportunity to become subject matter experts in the two-week modular blocks of instruction versus teaching the entire 60-day curriculum.

“Instructors will receive increased reps and sets and better feedback to elevate the overall performance of the team. This reduces lesson planning, preparation timelines and creates more opportunities for deliberate development, course updates, and instructor reconstitution time,” Bailey said. “This will allow instructors to reduce bureaucracy and concentrate on their primary mission — building warrior-minded leaders of character focused on the future fight.”

With OTS previously offering only five classes per year, thereby limiting time off between classes, the new program builds 10 weeks “off the line” each year for instructors. Therefore, when not actively instructing a class during these time periods, instructors are afforded the necessary time to refine course delivery, attend professional development programs, and enjoy their well-earned leave with family and friends.

Officer Training School is answering the call to produce warrior-minded leaders of character with a disciplined mindset who are willing and ready for the future fight. Through this reimagined learning-delivery model, OTS-Victory postures the Holm Center and our newest Air Force officers to compete and win, anytime, anyplace.

– Air University Commander and President Lt. Gen. Andrea D. Tullos

The first class of officer trainees to experience OTS-V arrived on campus Oct. 10.

The purpose of OTS is to train and develop new officers to fulfill Air Force and Space Force active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard requirements, in partnership with the U.S. Air Force Academy and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Officer Training School is located at Maxwell Air Force Base and consists of two academic buildings with auditoriums, four dormitories, dining facility, physical conditioning center, parade field, running track and sports fields. Additionally, OTS maintains an Air Expeditionary Force garrison training site, a 200-acre field training facility, confidence course and two expeditionary assault courses.

Story by Air University Public Affairs

Photos by photo by 2nd Lt Kip Turner