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820th BDG puts the “agile” in agile combat employment

A photo of Airmen loading onto an HC-130J Combat King II.

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 820th Base Defense Group load on to an HC-130J Combat King II before an airborne jump for Mosaic Tiger Feb. 22, 2021, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Airborne infiltration operations established airfield security and safe arrival of follow-on forces for Mosaic Tiger. Mosaic Tiger is designed to test the 23d Wing’s ability to integrate multi-capable Airmen into joint operations while maintaining a lighter footprint downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Megan Estrada)

A photo of Airmen jumping out of an HC-130J Combat King II.

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 820th Base Defense Group jump out of an HC-130J Combat King II during an airborne jump for Mosaic Tiger Feb. 22, 2021, at Avon Park, Florida. Airborne infiltration operations established airfield security and safe arrival of follow-on forces for Mosaic Tiger. Mosaic Tiger is designed to test the 23d Wing’s ability to integrate multi-capable Airmen into joint operations while maintaining a lighter footprint downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Megan Estrada)

A photo of an Airman resting after an airborne jump.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cory Newby, 823d Base Defense Squadron independent duty medical technician, rests after an airborne jump during Mosaic Tiger Feb. 22, 2021 at Avon Park, Florida. Airborne infiltration operations established airfield security and safe arrival of follow-on forces for Mosaic Tiger. Mosaic Tiger is designed to test the 23d Wing’s ability to integrate multi-capable Airmen into joint operations while maintaining a lighter footprint downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carly E. Kavish)

A photo of an Airmen waiting for instruction during an airborne jump.

A U.S. Air Force Airman assigned to the 820th Base Defense Group waits for instruction during an airborne jump for Mosaic Tiger Feb. 22, 2021, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Airborne infiltration operations established airfield security and safe arrival of follow-on forces for Mosaic Tiger. Mosaic Tiger is designed to test the 23d Wing’s ability to integrate multi-capable Airmen into joint operations while maintaining a lighter footprint downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Megan Estrada)

A photo of an Airman watching a demonstration.

A U.S. Air Force Airman assigned to the 820th Base Defense Group watches a demonstration before an airborne jump for Mosaic Tiger Feb. 22, 2021, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Airborne infiltration operations established airfield security and safe arrival of follow-on forces for Mosaic Tiger. Mosaic Tiger is designed to test the 23d Wing’s ability to integrate multi-capable Airmen into joint operations while maintaining a lighter footprint downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Megan Estrada)

A photo of Airmen practicing landing before an airborne jump.

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 820th Base Defense Group practice landing before an airborne jump for Mosaic Tiger Feb. 22, 2021, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Airborne infiltration operations established airfield security and safe arrival of follow-on forces for Mosaic Tiger. Mosaic Tiger is designed to test the 23d Wing’s ability to integrate multi-capable Airmen into joint operations while maintaining a lighter footprint downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Megan Estrada)

A photo of an Airman donning a parachute.

A U.S. Air Force Airman assigned to the 820th Base Defense Group receives help while donning a parachute before an airborne jump for Mosaic Tiger Feb. 22, 2021, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Airborne infiltration operations established airfield security and safe arrival of follow-on forces for Mosaic Tiger. Mosaic Tiger is designed to test the 23d Wing’s ability to integrate multi-capable Airmen into joint operations while maintaining a lighter footprint downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Megan Estrada)

A photo of leadership explaining jumping procedures to Airmen.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jared Rosier, 823d Base Defense Squadron operations section chief, center, explains jumping procedures to Airmen assigned to the 820th Base Defense Group before an airborne jump for Mosaic Tiger Feb. 22, 2021, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Airborne infiltration operations established airfield security and safe arrival of follow-on forces for Mosaic Tiger. Mosaic Tiger is designed to test the 23d Wing’s ability to integrate multi-capable Airmen into joint operations while maintaining a lighter footprint downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Megan Estrada)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Before the bustling sounds of ground crews and screaming fighter jet engines filled the air around a remote airfield, the droning turboprop engines of a single HC-130J Combat King II first broke the nighttime silence.

As the aircraft flew over the training range, 29 Airmen from the 820th Base Defense Group silently drifted to the ground by parachute and quickly got to work.

Members of the 820th BDG participated in Exercise Mosaic Tiger 21-1 at Avon Park, Florida, February 22, 2021, to demonstrate their capabilities as part of Air Combat Command’s lead wing concept.

The concept brings multiple squadrons together for deployment under the command of a lead wing, which may or may not be the wing they normally report to, allowing them to train as a team before heading downrange. This provides theater commanders with a wing-echelon unit that’s organized, trained, and equipped to generate combat power at the speed of relevance in a contested environment.

Lead wings are a resilient, adaptive and proactive force able to operate with joint and coalition partners. The 820th BDG fits into this mission using Airmen from multiple career fields to secure airfields in small or large teams that can operate independently.

“This was our first exercise in Air Combat Command’s lead wing concept, and it definitely helped to inform when and how the BDG is employed,” said Lt. Col. Dan Minnocci, airborne mission commander for Mosaic Tiger 21-1. “Our airborne, air-mobile, and multi-functional capabilities provide commanders the agility to rapidly mass and work and maneuver troops to shape an operating environment.”

The core mission of base defense squadrons is to defend an airfield from its original seizure to the arrival of follow-on forces. They achieve this by leveraging expertise from their security forces, intelligence, communications, medical, logistics, engineering and explosive ordinance disposal Airmen. 

After parachuting into the airfield, the defenders secured the airfield and set up defensive positions with a Special Tactics Team from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

“Being Airborne qualified and parachuting into an operation allows us to quickly get anywhere and set up security, so aircraft can safely bring in the other assets to run an airfield,” said Capt. Octavio Otero, 823d Base Defense Squadron operations officer.

The 820th BDG then established over-the-horizon communication back to Moody AFB and integrated their multi-domain capabilities with the rest of the team on the ground.

“Even before the term ‘multi-capable Airman’ became a thing, the BDG has been teaching security forces Airmen how to assist other experts in the squadron,” said Senior Airman Allen Unaitis, 823d BDS headquarters squad system operator.  “For this exercise, I received specialized communications training and established the satellite link back to Moody, even though I’m in the Security Forces [career field].”

Over the next 18 hours of the exercise, the defenders encountered surveillance from hostile forces and repelled small ground attacks. Following a handoff of the airfield to the 23d Wing’s Multi-Capable Airmen team, the 820th BDG loaded onto a C-17 and returned to Moody AFB.

“We learn a lot from exercises like this,” Minnocci said. “They let us try new concepts and validate what we do against varying threat scenarios and make refinements to our training and equipment. We can do all this while gaining experience with joint forces.”