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Washington Air National Guard hosts ADAFCO Course at the Western Air Defense Sector

  • Published
  • By Kimberly D. Burke, Western Air Defense Sector Public Affairs

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, WA -- The Washington Air National Guard’s 225th Air Defense Group hosted its first ever three-week U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Fire Control Officer (ADAFCO) course and follow-on Joint Kill Chain Exercise for 14 U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force students Jan. 29 – Feb. 16, 2024, at the Western Air Defense Sector on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.  This represents the first time an Air National Guard unit has hosted this kind of joint training and integration event, which is an essential component to building the skills and relationships necessary for unity of effort in any joint battlespace.

The ADAFCO is the key tactical decision maker and manager that is part of the U.S. Army’s Patriot weapons system.  This weapons system is deployed across the globe and ADAFCOs are trained and ready to manage multiple battalions of Patriot fire units as they protect friendly assets. Establishment of the ADAFCO course goes back to 2003 when the position was created to ensure the human element in the decision-making process of managing surface-to-air fires was fully trained and ready.  The ADAFCO is also essential to prevent friendly-on-friendly incidents occurring in congested integrated air and missile theaters. In past years, the course was held at the Distributed Mission Operations Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, however the Washington Air National Guard, in conjunction with the Western Air Defense Sector provided an ideal platform as well as seasoned Command and Control operators.  The arrangement proved to be an excellent venue to train new ADAFCOs.

“WADS hosting the course and exercise in the new WADS Mission Training Center saved the military travel money and provided both the Army and the Washington Air National Guard with valuable wartime training opportunities,” explained Maj. Blake Fair, 225th Air Defense Group chief of exercises. 

Air National Guard operators from the 225th Air Defense Group gained invaluable wartime, peer threat and integrated air and missile defense (IAMD) training from home station while also fulfilling the 24/7 Operation NOBLE EAGLE mission.

To achieve this integration opportunity, Maj. Jason Allenton of the Washington Air National Guard’s 225th Air Defense Squadron, coordinated with technical providers to install the Army’s Future Force Experimentation Air Defense Simulation at the Distributed Training Operations Center (DTOC) located in Des Moines, Iowa. “This simulator provides DTOC the capability to replicate Patriot batteries and enable realistic ADAFCO coordination and training across several Army and Air Force units,” explained Allenton.  This capability enabled the Washington Air National Guard to provide a platform to train ADAFCO students.

The culminating event of the ADAFCO course is a week-long Joint Kill Chain Exercise in which Airmen of the Washington Air National Guard’s 225th Air Defense Squadron were able to participate.  The high-level Joint exercise provided next generation training against representative adversaries and fostered an environment that validated the classroom instruction of the ADAFCO course. 

“Bringing the ADAFCO course here to this ANG unit provided significant benefits including the opportunity to train and equip operators with current tactics, techniques and procedures being employed in INDOPACOM, EUCOM, and CENTCOM,” explained Lt. Col. Peter Hickman, Washington Air National Guard’s 225th Air Defense Squadron commander.  “Joint integration is the key to future success and having this expert team of Washington Air National Guard Airmen host the U.S. Army fires experts was of immense value.”

The training resulted mutual training not only for the 14 newest ADAFCOs, but also 27 Washington Air National Guard personnel who completed positional upgrades and accomplished hundreds of joint training events.

1st Lt. Christian Aown, air battle manager for the Washington Air National Guard’s 225th Air Defense Squadron, had the unique privilege of going through the course and earning the ADAFCO certification.  He reflected that the course gave him the opportunity to learn realistic integrated air and missile defense.  Learning about what the Army brings to the integrated air battle and how Air Force air battle managers can operate in a joint environment.

“The Joint Kill Chain Exercise week provided us with the opportunity to partner with Army ADAFCOs and execute 35 exercise missions from a whole new perspective,” explained Aown. “These opportunities are few and far between and as this world becomes smaller, we will need to have an understanding and ability to work with the joint services. Any opportunity to learn from and qualify with another branch provides invaluable insight.”