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Pennsylvania Airmen Forge New Paths in Exercise Iron Keystone

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Alexander Farver,
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. - In a display of unity and innovation, 150 Airmen from the three Pennsylvania Air National Guard wings converged for the groundbreaking Exercise Iron Keystone, held from Aug. 3 - 6. This landmark exercise marked the first joint endeavor among the wings, signaling a powerful commitment to enhance their collective combat prowess.

“Across our three wings, we have similar units that perform dissimilar missions. We wanted to bring together these units with their unique tactics and insights to see if we could meet a common objective,” said exercise planner Lt. Col. Stephen McNamara.

At the heart of this dynamic exercise lay a paramount objective: to pioneer innovative approaches in executing Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concepts. ACE, a transformative doctrine, empowers Airmen and small units to conduct missions from decentralized locations. This adaptability enables them to align with the commander’s intent despite minimal guidance and respond effectively to unforeseen variables.

“We recognize the growing threat China poses to the United States and their ability to disrupt our capacity to operate from large, centralized locations,” said Col. Edward Fink, 193rd Special Operations Wing commander. “The lessons we’re learning in this exercise will increase our survivability and ability to project airpower in a future conflict.”

Exercise Iron Keystone also aimed to advance tactical innovation by synchronizing participants with the new Air Force Force Generation (AFFORGEN) model. This model outlines a meticulous 24-month rotational cycle segmented into four distinct phases: prepare, certify, available, and reset. The Airmen ensured their readiness was honed by aligning their goals with the required Mission Essential Tasks units entering the commit phase.

“The old ways of waging wars from massive, secure bases have become antiquated, and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard has chosen to lead the charge in refining the ACE and AFFORGEN paradigms,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Regan, Pennsylvania Air National Guard commander. “The lessons distilled from Iron Keystone will resonate throughout the entire force, fortifying our lethality and resilience.”

As the last echoes of the exercise faded against the backdrop of the Keystone State, it was evident that the Pennsylvania National Guard had etched a new chapter in their storied legacy. Exercise Iron Keystone was not just an assembly of exercises; it was a symphony of innovation, unity, and adaptability that will ensure the three wings of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard can adapt to an ever-changing security environment.