103rd Airlift Wing and Air Operations Group team up for first integrated exercise

  • Published
  • By Capt. Bryon Turner
  • 103rd Air and Space Operations Group
Airmen from the 103rd Air and Space Operations Group, Connecticaut Air National Guard, will execute the unit's first full-scale internal operations floor exercise in June at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Conn., which will culminate the extensive planning and preparation efforts conducted over last six unit training assemblies.

The exercise will cover a wide range of training scenarios which will include the re-prioritization of air assets to engage emerging targets, the response to imminent enemy missile launches and various mobility challenges revolving around the global movement of personnel and critical supplies needed for the war effort.

"We have representatives from almost every AFSC in the Air Force. They need to learn what inputs and outputs are required of their particular position in order for command and control to flow effectively within the AOG," said Maj. Evan Hunt, master air attack planning cell chief, 103rd Air and Space Operations Group.

"These exercises are the best way to do just that--short of the real thing. Each position corresponds with a crucial step in the kill-chain that cannot be overlooked or dire mistakes can be made."

Last month, exercise participants analyzed a scenario-specific Air Operations Directive and created a plan to meet the exercise's notional Combined Forces Air Component Commander's objectives. That plan was then briefed to the group's commander, Col. Peter J. DePatie, and Col. Frederick R. Miclon, vice commander, 103rd Airlift Wing, both simulating the role of CFACC for that phase of the exercise.

Once the Combat Plans Division obtained approval for the plan, unit members used an array of programs that make up the Falconer weapon system to convert that plan into an Air Tasking Order. The ATO is a large document outlining the planned air sorties for a specific period of time. Missions ranging from close-air support to air refueling are covered in detail. Through the ATO, the CFACC is able to control air forces within a joint operations environment. This month, the efforts of the AOG will be felt on a more local level.

"We are incorporating the AOG and their exercise into the wing exercise," said Miclon. "Our AOG will actually act as an AOC or higher headquarters."

The Falconer weapon system is the senior command and control element and operational-level focal point for command and control during combined and joint air operations. The AOG integrates and synchronizes strategic decisions to tactical-level execution, providing rapid reaction, positive control, coordination and de-confliction of weapons systems.

"We will receive information from them... just as if we were deployed in theater," said Miclon. "We will also pass information up to the CAOC on our situation at the deployed location."

While most of the Airmen at Bradley will practice their ability to survive and operate under the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological attack during the UTA, the AOG will train to intercept those attacks.

"If there were a chemical or nuclear attack on the base we were operating at, we would never be allowed out the door of our secure over-pressurized facility," said Hunt. "We would be busy trying to arrange for our own surface-to-air missile systems to intercept the next attack. Therefore, the best way to train for operational readiness is to practice that incredibly complicated command and control mission."

This month, exercise participants will 'fly the ATO' in a simulator known as the Part-Task Trainer while the exercise's control group provides scripted scenarios designed to test and train operators on how to respond to a variety of real-time command and control challenges. Some of those challenges will directly integrate into the scenario under which the rest of the base will be training.

"Missile defense is one of our main concerns," said Capt. Jaime Zambrano, space and missile operations officer, 103rd Air and Space Operations Group. "It is imperative that we maximize our training and focus on this threat. For this reason, we will provide realistic missile warnings for our AOG exercise and the wing ORE, linking the tactical and operational level of wars."

Exercise planners take steps to ensure the most realistic training possible is achieved by using real-world planning factors. Scenarios are developed with data points relevant to actual forward bases and assets; planners also utilize the same special instructions, rules of engagement, and tactics, techniques and procedures used at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Southwest Asia.

"We also work closely with Intelligence experts to create realistic scenarios using real-world enemy weapon systems. The exercise is designed to be as similar as possible to what one of our members would experience if deployed to an active Air Operations Center abroad," said Hunt. "Having an in-depth understanding of, not only your specific job, but also everybody else's, is the only way to be effective in the business of command and control."

"Both exercises will dovetail--the entire scenario is a joint scenario, which is really a first for us," said Miclon. "We're really looking forward to how this will work out, and it will lead to bigger and better things in the future."