Hurlburt C2 SMEs enhance ACE LW exercise realism

  • Published
  • By 505th Command and Control Wing Public Affairs
  • 705th Training Squadron

Over 1,000 personnel in multiple locations took part in exercise AGILE FLAG 22-2, testing the 23rd Wing’s ability to conduct agile combat employment, or ACE, operations during Air Combat Command’s first Lead Wing certification exercise

photo of US military sitting at tables working on computers with a big projector screen in the backgroun

A-staff and special staff Airmen from the 23rd Wing exercises command and control from the wing operations center at the Air Dominance Center, a Combat Readiness Training Center, in Savannah, Georgia, July 26, 2022 during Agile Flag 22-2. Agile Flag tests the Lead Wing’s ability to utilize their A-staff to generate combat air power while continuing to move, maneuver, and sustain the Wing and subordinate force elements in a dynamic and contested environment. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Capt. Lauren Gao)

The exercise marked a significant milestone in standardizing and certifying the way ACC organizes, trains, and equips for ACE.  The 23rd Wing’s, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, “A” staff and special staff executed command and control, or C2, of three Lead Wing force elements from the wing operations center at the Air Dominance Center, a Combat Readiness Training Center, in Savannah, Georgia.  

AGF is the latest U.S. Air Force investment in capabilities that enables Lead Wings to operate at the speed, scope, complexity, and scale needed in a modern-day threat environment. The exercise focuses on increasing survivability and combat lethality through dispersion, flexibility, resiliency, agility, and mission command.

Exercise AGF 22-2 was the culmination of nine months of planning for the 505th Command and Control Wing, delivering the synthetic environment for 15th Air Force to evaluate the 23rd Wing’s use of ACE.  For the first time, Airmen from the 705th Training Squadron, 505th Combat Training Squadron, and 926th Operations Group, Detachment 1, provided a C2 exercise support team, at three locations: Hurlburt Field, Shaw AFB, and the Savannah CRTC.

At Hurlburt Field, the air component replication cell, or ACRC, enhanced ACE exercise realism and facilitated the 23rd Wing’s certification of the Lead Wing’s C2 force element providing realistic representations of geographically separated operational C2 during the preparation and execution during the first LW certification exercise.

“The ACRC was the next step in the 505th CCW’s evolution of support for the Lead Wing and was highly lauded by the AGF exercise director and the white cell lead,” said David Hetzler, 705th TRS ACE/LW Subject Matter Expert, Hurlburt Field, Florida.

The 505th CTS provided critical Air Force forces, or AFFOR, staff subject matter expertise to the ACRC.  In most air components, an AFFOR staff consists of functionally oriented directorates, sometimes also called an “A” staff, accomplishing the bulk of the C2 responsibilities to ensure that any follow-on units can seamlessly plug in to generate combat air power, ensuring lethality while remaining agile.

Lead Wings are responsible for generating combat power in support of the air component commander; as such, training events rely on an appropriate level of air component to rehearse mission essential tasks in a realistic context.  The 505th CTS AFFOR experts helped to provide realistic context by constructing both scripted and dynamic injects throughout the exercise.

“While the AGILE FLAG exercise is still maturing, I have no doubt that the air component replication provided by the 505th Command and Control Wing will be a pivotal element of future Lead Wing training events.” said Mary Fellows, 505th CTS, air component logistics planner, Hurlburt Field, Florida. “Our Lead Wings must prepare for the dynamic sustainment required in agile combat employment, and I’m happy to say that the 23rd Fighter Wing was able to work through degraded communications to make both reactive and proactive maneuver decisions based on air component replication cell input.”

The 505th Communications Squadron played a key role providing secure network systems and workspaces to the ACRC allowing warfighters from multiple installations and major commands to prepare for what they may encounter downrange.

In addition to the ACRC, the 505th CCW incorporated 15th AF’s Brig. Gen. Bryan Salmon as the AGF joint forces air component commander/commander AFFOR.

“Having a general officer participate in the exercise as the JFACC added weight and substance to the decisions and guidance handed down from the air component to the Lead Wing which ultimately enhanced the 23rd Wing’s Lead Wing certification,” said Hetzler.  “During execution, the ACRC presented the JFACC a daily operations and intelligence briefing which showcased the importance of communication between the JFACC/COMAFFOR and their air component staff to ensure successful ACE Lead Wing ops.”

photo of US military working at computers on long rows of white tables

The 23rd Wing A-staff and special staff executes command and control for the other Lead Wing force elements from the wing operations center at the Air Dominance Center, a Combat Readiness Training Center, in Savannah, Georgia, July 26, 2022 during Agile Flag 22-2. AGILE FLAG 22-2 marks a significant milestone in standardizing the way ACC organizes, trains, and equips for ACE after a period of experimentation. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Capt. Lauren Gao)

The final component to the support team was the liaison officer/white cell coordinator team located at the Savannah CRTC.  Initially, the team was created to bridge the gap between the ACRC and the white cell due to operating remotely from Hurlburt Field.  The LNO team provided the AGF white cell with air component expertise during scenario inject meetings which aided in steering the exercise at critical moments to meet mission essential tasks and additional exercise/certification objectives.

“This was the first time AGILE FLAG incorporated an air component replication cell into the execution of the exercise,” stated Brig. Gen. Bryan Salmon, 15th AF Air National Guard assistant to the commander/AGF JFACC/COMAFFOR, Shaw AFB, South Carolina.  “The 23rd Wing was provided the realistic interaction between a Lead Wing and an air component which is critical to the future success of employing a Lead Wing.” 

Future iterations of AGF will remain a key contributing event toward certifying ACC’s Lead Wings to be ready and resilient forces as the command progresses towards initial operating capability for the Combat Air Force Force Generation cycle in fall 2022.

“A modern, peer-war fight requires a warrior culture, credibility, capacity and high-end capability. The units that ACC sends forward have to seamlessly plug into their combat-engaged formations and structures. There’s no time for the team forward to acclimate to one another and there’s no time for a combat-engaged CFACC to provide on-the-job training. They must be afforded time to train together as a cohesive team before they’re required to fight together as a cohesive team on the combat frontier,” said Gen. Mark Kelly, ACC commander.