Exercise tests Offutt’s Lead Wing operating capabilities

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. William A. O’Brien
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

Team Offutt conducted a three-day Lead Wing exercise to test their ability to conduct command and control along with mission generation force element integration in a contested environment through simulated competition-through-conflict actions against a peer competitor.

“To prepare the Warhawks for Lead Wing responsibilities, we developed an internal exercise called IRON RECCE,” said Col. Mark Howard, 55th Wing vice commander and exercise Lead Wing deputy commander. “As a newly designated Lead Wing, we need to demonstrate our ability to command and control Air Force assets from multiple locations. Our scenario complicated adversary targeting by locating our Wing Operations Center at one base -- then basing our F-16 fighters from the 187th Guard Wing and our intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and airborne electronic attack assets from the Fightin’-Fifty Fifth -- all at different locations.”

On the first day, the Lead Wing team arrived at a site void of communications capabilities and facilities. Working together with the 155th Air Refueling Wing civil engineers from Lincoln, Nebraska, and members from the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron from Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, the group built two tents with redundant satellite connections to the Air Force radio and computer networks at multiple security levels.

As a Lead Wing, the Warhawks are in a ready status according to the new Air Force Force Generation model to deploy an “A-Staff” that supports and advises the wing commander, while ensuring their forward operating locations are successful. A-Staff designations are the same as Joint or Air Staff -- A1 is manpower, personnel and services, A2 is intel, A3 is operations, A4 is logistics, civil engineering, security forces, maintenance and ops contract support, A5 is plans and requirements, and A6 is communications.

“With our WOC and a Temporary Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility,” said Lt. Col. Narada Felder, Lead Wing A3. “Our two facilities housed a robust communications node, enabling our A-Staff to command and control multiple mission generation force elements at all times.”

On day two, the Lead Wing staff worked through a variety of scenarios that tested their ability to operate in these agile conditions and put the communications equipment set up the day prior through the paces.

“We had several layers of connectivity -- top-secret internet and phone capability, secret text messaging, along with encrypted and secure radios,” said Howard. “We were communicating with a simulated Air Operations Center Node back at Offutt Air Force Base and using those exercise injects to drive our decision making as a team. Several times during the exercise, we simulated losing connectivity with the AOC at critical points to force us to meet commander’s intent without having specific directions from higher headquarters. In our Wing Operations Center tent, my A-Staff would advise me on how the scenario injects impacted operations and we had to make timely decisions to ensure mission accomplishment.”

On the third day the team tested their ability to move their equipment and reestablish their WOC and T-SCIF in the event of an impending attack at their currently established location.

This is the second exercise Team Offutt has done since being designated as a Lead Wing. Howard says doing anything new is always a learning process, and he is very impressed how quickly the team was able to apply core concepts and succeed under pressure.

“The team was highly invested and highly motivated,” said Howard. “We were privileged to have the Agile Battle Lab, who has observed all Lead Wings exercises including this one, report the thing we excelled at was our ability to operate as Multi-Capable Airmen. We had Air Force members who wore various types of uniforms and squadron patches setting up tents, comm gear and more. I can’t thank the team enough. Words don’t capture how grateful I am for the level of effort they put into this project.”