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20th FW MCAT tackles ACE at JBC

Image of an Airman using hand signals in front of an F-16 Viper.

A 20th Fighter Wing (FW) Airman uses hand signals to communicate with an F-16 Viper pilot during an agile combat employment (ACE) exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, Jan. 25, 2021. The ACE exercise was part of an ongoing initiative to train and maintain teams of multicapable Airmen, allowing the 20th FW to operate in more austere environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Destinee Sweeney)

Image of an Airman writes things down in a notebook in front of an F-16.

A U.S. Air Force Airman assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing (FW) documents data about integrated combat turns during an agile combat employment (ACE) exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, Jan. 27, 2021. The ACE exercise was part of an ongoing initiative to train and maintain teams of multicapable Airmen, allowing the 20th FW to operate in more austere environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Destinee Sweeney)

Image of crew chiefs waiting in front of their F-16 Vipers.

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing (FW) wait to marshal out their F-16 Viper pilots during an agile combat employment (ACE) exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, Jan. 27, 2021. The ACE exercise was part of an ongoing initiative to train and maintain teams of multicapable Airmen, allowing the 20th FW to operate in more austere environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Destinee Sweeney)

Image of an F-16 Viper flying through the air.

A 20th Fighter Wing (FW) F-16 Viper flies over the runway during an agile combat employment (ACE) exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, Jan. 25, 2021. The ACE exercise was part of an ongoing initiative to train and maintain teams of multicapable Airmen, allowing the 20th FW to operate in more austere environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Destinee Sweeney)

Image of four F-16 Vipers flying through the air.

Four 20th Fighter Wing (FW) F-16 Vipers prepare to land during an agile combat employment (ACE) exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, Jan. 25, 2021. The ACE exercise was part of an ongoing initiative to train and maintain teams of multicapable Airmen, allowing the 20th FW to operate in more austere environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Destinee Sweeney)

Image of Airmen preparing their work spaces during an exercise.

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 20th Fighter Wing (FW) prepare their work spaces during an agile combat employment (ACE) exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, Jan. 25, 2021. The ACE exercise was part of an ongoing initiative to train and maintain teams of multicapable Airmen, allowing the 20th FW to operate in more austere environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Destinee Sweeney)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --

Airmen from the 79th Fighter Squadron and 79th Fighter Generation Squadron, also known as the Tigers, in addition to the 20th Logistics Readiness, Component Maintenance, Operations Support and Equipment Maintenance Squadrons, simulated a forward operating base during an agile combat employment exercise at Joint Base Charleston, Jan. 24-28.

The exercise aimed to provide the squadrons with an opportunity to test their Multi-capable Airmen Team while developing new skills.

"This was the 79th FGS's first ACE event," said Master Sgt. Christopher Patten, 79th FGS airframe, powerplant general section chief. "We took a core team of maintainers with different specialties mixed in. We recovered six aircraft, then flew a four-turn two for two days, performed integrated combat turns and hot pits, and set up a base camp. We refragged, refueled and sustained for these five days."

Hot pits and ICTs are one of many tasks the Tigers MCAT had the opportunity to perform together during the exercise. Both being time-saving in contested environments, hot pits is when maintainers work together to fuel up a live aircraft after a pilot's initial mission while ICTs involve fueling and re-arming the jet to allow the pilot to get back up into the air quickly and efficiently.

Additionally, the team was able to evaluate a draft unit type code designed for six F-16 Vipers, a plan that would be able to describe the personnel and equipment assets needed to sustain their lean six-ship unit.

The goal of the 20th Fighter Wing's MCAT initiative is to prepare a small, agile group of Airmen to provide F-16 airpower for the U.S. and its allies in even the most austere environments.

"We were also able to evaluate our cross-utilization training program," said Capt. Jessica Watts, 79th FGS director of operations. "With an ACE construct we knew we needed to bring less people, so we need those Airmen to be qualified on a range of different tasks. We've been working on that for the past couple months so we wanted to evaluate whether or not that was sufficient."

The team's Airmen had the opportunity to develop cross-functional skills to further their ability to be light, lean and lethal. Weapons Airmen learned traditional crew chief skills like launching aircraft, while crew chiefs assisted logistics Airmen in loading aerospace ground equipment into a C-17 Globemaster III.

The 321st Contingency Response Squadron, a unit well-versed in ACE, also provided a team to advise the Tigers while they worked to smooth out their new form of operation.

"We do air base opening, joint task force port opening and overseas we do things like humanitarian relief and airfield surveys," said Master Sgt. Michael Fisher, 321st CRS aerial porter. "We brought our (cargo) maintenance guys to assist with hot pits and integrated combat turns, we brought Security Forces to talk about airfield security in a contingency environment, and I helped with cargo prep and load up."

By creating and maintaining skilled MCAT airpower, the 20th FW works to increase its agility and combat power delivery while preparing for the next tactically unpredictable environment.

Watts said that she and Patten are so proud of the team’s flexibility and hard work over the course of the exercise, overcoming all forms of adversity thrown their way and learning from the experience.

"ACE is the fight of the future," said Watts. "It's important to be able to do this to be ready now for tomorrow's fight and if we never practice, we're never going to get there. We're moving away from our air expeditionary force construct and getting ready for what's to come."