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Joint training to build readiness for tomorrow's fight

A photo of a maintainer

A U.S. Air Force Airman from the 354th Aircraft Maintenance Unit performs maintenance on the flight line at Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, California, Feb. 16, 2021. Airmen from the 354th AMU traveled to NASNI with A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the 354th Fighter Squadron to execute dynamic forward adaptive basing and agile combat employment concepts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob T. Stephens)

A photo of a A-10 taking off

A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II takes off from the flight line at Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, California, Feb. 17, 2021. The A-10s, assigned to the 354th Fighter Squadron, trained alongside joint service partners to increase overall force readiness for land and sea operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob T. Stephens)

A photo of a Sailor flying

A U.S. Navy MH-60S Seahawk flies over the Pacific Ocean, Feb. 18, 2021. Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 85 is a Naval aviation squadron based out of Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, California, that flies the MH-60. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob T. Stephens)

A photo of a maintainer

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Hunter Thomas, 354th Aircraft Maintenance Unit A-10 Thunderbolt II crew chief, performs pre-flight inspections on the flight line at Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, California, Feb. 20, 2021. Crew chiefs are responsible for performing pre- and post-flight inspections to ensure that the aircraft remains safe and ready for any mission, anywhere, anytime. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob T. Stephens)

A photo of a C-130 on the taxi way

A U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules taxis down the flight line at Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, California, Feb. 17, 2021. The C-130, assigned to the 61st Airlift Squadron, traveled to NASNI alongside A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the 354th Fighter Squadron to train tactics, techniques and procedures to prepare Airmen to execute dynamic forward adaptive basing and agile combat employment concepts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob T. Stephens)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. --

Airmen from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base traveled to Naval Air Station North Island, California, to perform multi-service integration training with the Marines, Navy and other Air Force assets from Feb. 16–20, 2021.

Airmen from the 354th Fighter Squadron and 354th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, as well as other support units set up command and control operations out of NASNI to train and develop agile combat employment and dynamic forward adaptive basing concepts as part of the 355th Wing’s effort to continue leading the way in developing readiness for tomorrow’s fight.

“We went out to demonstrate, execute and train our new tactics, techniques and procedures for ACE and DFAB and how we integrate those with coalition forces,” said Capt. Alexander Boules, 354th FS A-10 pilot. “We took a detachment of our A-10s out to train these concepts, as well as integrate with the Navy, Marines, C-130s [Super Hercules] from Little Rock [Air Force Base, Arkansas] and other Air Force assets we don’t traditionally get to train with.”

Training included performing simulated combat search and rescue escorts with Navy and Marine helicopters, anti-maritime strikes, forward area hot refuels and other capabilities.

This training is critical as in a near-peer adversary situation, interoperability between units and military branches is going to be critical for mission success. Building on previous training with other Air Force assets, while also on-boarding new mission partners helps increase the reach and effectiveness of not just the Dynamic Wing and Air Force, but the entire Department of Defense.

“This training gives us exposure to some units and tactics that we don’t usually get to train,” Boules said. “We typically train in a lot of austere and contested environments, as well as train on the close air support mission, but we don’t usually get to train anti-maritime strike roles and capabilities. Training new things only helps us further our readiness for what we may see in the future.”

Training new and atypical missions is beneficial as it prepares our Airmen for situations that they may face while downrange. Not all is new, however, as some missions are best executed by doing the same things.

“Our focus during this trip was not much different than it is home station, which is to always produce safe and reliable aircraft for the pilots to effectively carry out their mission,” said Master Sgt. Johnathan Heylman, 354th AMU production superintendent. “We did take this opportunity, however, to integrate and train Navy and civilian maintainers on A-10 hot refueling operations. In addition, we did practice some ACE concepts by having a built bomb truck arrive from home station for resupply and exercise certain maintenance concepts operating in an austere environment.”

Enabling pilots and maintainers to operate smoothly and effectively in austere and potentially contested environments is critical to allow the Air Force and DoD to continue pushing further into the fight and to gain an edge for any conflict that may arise.  

“For the Air Force, operations like this are the future and we have to be able to pick up and go anywhere with limited support at the forward location, and still produce safe, reliable combat sorties,” Heylman said. “Operations like this help our maintainers to get repetitions operating without all the comforts and support of being at home station. It also tells us what we are good at and what we need to improve on going forward to be able to operate in austere environments, so we can solidify effective practices and improve where we are deficient.”

Following the strategic guidance “Accelerate Change or lose” from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., the 355th Wing is preparing for the high-end fight by building an unprecedented level of readiness, as proven by the capabilities of the Airmen and A-10s at the 354th FS.

“What we are doing at the 354th FS exemplifies ‘Accelerate Change or lose’ due to the fact that we are working through problems and building what is essentially a mission essential personnel list for deployments based on what we anticipate seeing in an ACE environment,” Boules said. “With the environment we are facing now, it is essential that not just pilots and maintainers, but everyone, understands that we are going to be required to adapt to any environment that we are in and execute the mission in a timely and safe manner.”

The ever-changing global climate of conflict requires the Air Force and DoD to adapt and deploy ready, lethal forces anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. The 355th Wing remains on the leading edge of this charge by developing Airmen to execute ACE and DFAB in austere and contested environments and reach their full potential.