SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
About 30 Airmen, who recently completed the first-ever U.S. Air Force Rear Mission Support Element course here in February, participated in the U.S. Army’s Warfighter Exercise 17-4 April 3-11 at Fort Hood, Texas.
WFX 17-4 prepared Airmen for an upcoming deployment to Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve headquarters and was designed to train Airmen and Soldiers on how to build a JTF headquarters from the ground up.
“It’s very important for us to conduct war fighting functions with joint partners, specifically with the Air Force, who we’re going to be working with during our OIR mission,” said U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Christopher Bradshaw, WFX 17-4 participant from III Corps.
The sentiment was echoed by 9th Air Force leadership.
“Participation in the Warfighter Exercise ensures the joint team works together to learn the headquarters functions, processes and authorities,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Rhude Cherry III, 9th AF vice commander. “It also allows members to meet and get acquainted prior to deployment. The relationships made and job knowledge gained at WFX 17-4 better enables our Airmen to nest into their deployed positions faster, reducing deployment angst.”
Additionally, the exercise met Joint Mission Essential Task List requirements.
“The WFX 17-4, in conjunction with RMSE training, is geared specifically for Airmen deploying to CJTF-OIR headquarters,” Cherry explained. “Deploying Airmen must meet over 100 requirements to be considered ‘qualified and ready.’ The three-week RMSE course provides most of those, and WFX provides the remainder of the requirements.”
According to U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John Mayo, exercise participant from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, one challenge Airmen faced during the exercise included breaking through the military language barrier to create a common language the Army and Air Force could use to accomplish the mission together.
“[The exercise] demonstrated that as a team we can get out there, pick out a spot on the battlefield, take over and establish a level of dominance, and still maintain the information capabilities we have in garrison,” Mayo added. “Looking at the equipment and people [who] put it together, it was impressive to see and be a part of.”
Though many Airmen who participated in the exercise had already attended RMSE, some had only been notified of their participation in the exercise days before it started and had received no RMSE training -- something Cherry said the Air Force is working on fixing as 9th AF continues to refine the process.
Although the primary function of the exercise was deployment training, 9th AF had a secondary reason for sending Airmen to WFX 17-4.
According to Cherry, the 9th AF Director of Operations and Airmen from the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing attended to learn what it takes to form a JTF headquarters, including what’s involved in exercises to meet Tier 1 training requirements in the hopes of standing up this kind of training either as part of RMSE or separately at Shaw AFB.
“Participation in the WFX 17-4 will enhance our JTF forming capabilities by enlightening our participating Airmen on headquarters structures, organizations, functions and processes,” he added.
Tier 1 training instills knowledge, skills and abilities so Airmen can survive, operate and succeed in a contingency environment.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein directed 9th Air Force in December 2016 to stand up RMSE and train Airmen deploying in support of CJTF-OIR headquarters. The three-week course includes two weeks of instruction on military doctrine, joint planning and OIR specific products, a week of expeditionary skills training such as chemical warfare and small arms qualification (Tier 2 training). RMSE deployment training culminates with a week of field training during an exercise like WFX 17-4.