JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS,Va. – Through hard work and rigorous training, members of the 633rd Air Base Wing, 1st Fighter Wing, 192nd Wing, and Missouri Air National Guard completed a week-long Agile Combat Employment exercise Jan. 11-15 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
With the ever-changing landscape of combat, the Air force must adapt to meet the demand for current and future military operations.
During this exercise, Airmen honed their skills on various tasks required of them for the new shift in combat employment.
In the past, the Air Force would deploy a large contingency of aircraft to support operations around the globe. While that is still a possibility, ACE focuses on being able to rapidly deploy a smaller size force. To provide air dominance in support of military operations around the globe with a responsive tactical force, practicing ACE tactics are paramount for units.
“Today we’re going to see the ammo and weapons troops come out and practice loading and offloading the aircraft with their equipment that is specialized to this mission and configure their equipment to our aircraft,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Mears, 139th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “We are going to test and see what our limits are and what we need to change, making sure that we’re checking all boxes safely and getting through the exercise so that we can give leadership good information to make better decisions.”
According to U.S. Air Force Capt. Andrew Gibler, 27th Fighter Squadron director of maintenance, this exercise simulated a real-world scenario for crews utilizing ACE for operations. The jets would land in a simulated austere environment, ground crews would refuel and reload the aircraft, and quickly turn them around so they can rapidly support another mission.
"This is one of the first times we’ve had the ability to actually practice this in conjunction with loading munitions on the ground,” Gibler said. “This is an awesome opportunity for us to see what it would be like, and so far we are beating our expectations and are already finding several ways to increase our efficiency.”
As ACE is an Air Force-wide initiative, there is an emphasis on several different units working in conjunction to help improve effectiveness throughout.
“It’s important for us because everything that we do on our side of the fence is together,” Gibler said. “This is a one team, one fight mentality for us; being able come out and see everyone participate and work together is proof of how awesome our teams are.”
Maintenance crews were not the only ones to benefit from this ACE exercise. Pilots for the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor and the C-130 Hercules aircraft played vital roles. The C-130s provided by the Missouri Air National Guard helped to transport equipment and crews from JBLE to support the F-22s from the 1st FW and 192nd Wing.
The implementation of ACE is a strategy that is helping to evolve the Air Force and its operations. With ACE in place, the Air Force is continually adapting to provide air dominance and support to military operations around the globe.