An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Vermont's Green Mountain Boys Demonstrate Agility, Readiness

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Ryan Campbell,
  • 158th Fighter Wing

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - The Vermont Air National Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing tested its ability to deploy and remain operational during a simulated attack on its base the first week of April.

During the exercise scenario at the South Burlington Air National Guard base, buildings lost power, infrastructure was disabled and runways were bombed, requiring the 158th to conduct missions from a forward operating location.

Taking six F-35A Lightning II jets and a minimal amount of Airmen and resources, the Green Mountain Boys tested the Multi-Capable Airman concept, operating with as few Airmen as possible to launch jets and execute tactical missions in a new type of exercise known as “ACE.”

“ACE is short for ‘Agile Combat Employment,’ and it’s a phrase we’ve been talking about in the Air Force for a couple of years now,” said Sandeep Mulgund, senior adviser to the deputy chief of staff for operations at Headquarters, Air Force, at the Pentagon. “The idea behind ACE is that air power faces a new set of challenges today that we haven’t had to worry about for quite some time.”

Mulgund said these threats come from cyber attacks and new drone missile attacks — all with a smaller overseas Air Force.

“Back in World War II, we had, plus or minus, 93 overseas bases,” Mulgund said. “Now that number is down to 33.”

This new concept shifts from reliance on overseas bases and focuses on Airmen being able to set up operations in more places.

“This exercise is the realization of all these ideas,” Mulgund said.

The exercise began on April 2 with aircraft, Airmen and resources needing to be deployed rapidly in response to an attack.

The New York Air National Guard’s 105th Airlift Wing arrived from Newburgh, New York, with a C-17A Globemaster III to take Airmen and cargo to their simulated deployed location at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum, New York.

More than 60 Airmen, including pilots, maintenance technicians, communications specialists and airfield managers, made their way to facilities run by the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing.

At Fort Drum, the 174th provided buildings to work out of and managed air space and a live-fire range where inert, 2,000-pound GBU-31 bombs could be dropped on targets.

“We’re seeing how much we can do without much,” said Tech. Sgt. Jacob Kenney, an F-35 crew chief assigned to the 158th Maintenance Group. “We’re figuring out what our strengths and what our weaknesses are, and improve on both.”

Missions began the next day after landing, with four F-35s taking off twice a day to engage targets with their GPS-guided bombs while making the best of vital systems back at the home base in South Burlington despite the simulated attacks there.

Kenney said Fort Drum enabled the Green Mountain Boys to support themselves with minimal resources.

“Our Airmen are incredible,” Kenney said. “I’ve never seen how many things someone is willing to do to get the mission done. It’s really incredible.”

The purpose of the Multi-Capable Airman concept is to have Airmen familiar with a variety of specialties so that units can deploy with fewer personnel if necessary.

“It’s really fun to watch everyone get zeroed in on ... what needs to be done to get the jets going,” Kenney said. “The group we have is very adaptable.”

Mulgund expressed amazement at the Airmen’s ability to launch jets and accomplish the mission no matter what the circumstances, bringing the ACE concept to life.

“That sends a signal to our adversaries and our allies of what our capabilities are,” he said.