Air Force supports Army integrated joint force Warfighter exercise, MCTP validates 3rd and 40th IDs readiness

  • Published
  • By 505th Command and Control Wing Public Affairs
  • 505th Command and Control Wing, Detachment 1

U.S. Air Force Airmen supported Warfighter exercise 23-2 enabling the U.S. Army’s Mission Command Training Program to validate the readiness of both the 3rd Infantry Division and 40th Infantry Division, and their respective subordinate units, Oct. 25 - Nov. 15.

Warfighter exercises test Army division elements spread across the United States and form them into a team capable of working and deploying together. WFXs use virtual battlefield scenarios to test a unit’s ability to coordinate and communicate in functional skill areas such as command and control, movement and maneuver, intelligence, targeting processes, sustainment and protection.

Airmen from the 505th Command and Control Wing, Detachment 1 based at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 505th Combat Training Squadron and 505th Communications Squadron based at Hurlburt Field, Florida, supported WFX 23-2 which trained more than 3,600 joint servicemembers in multi-domain, large-scale combat operations.

The joint exercise saw Army divisions trained at multiple locations at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and Camp Atterbury, Indiana, with the support of a U.S. Air Force air component and air operations center, or AOC, replication cell at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Throughout the event, both divisions along with the 15th, 116th, and 111th Air Support Operations Squadrons, were tested in their ability to mission command during multinational, large-scale combat operations, or LSCO.

WFX 23-2 was unique in that it integrated both active duty and National Guard divisions – along with their operationally aligned Airmen – into a highly demanding scenario. The Louisiana Army National Guard’s 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team participated in the exercise alongside units from around the country, including U.S. Army Alaska’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, the California Army National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division, the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 138th Field Artillery Brigade, the Minnesota Army National Guard’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, the Mississippi Army National Guard’s 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team and the Missouri Army National Guard’s 35th Combat Aviation Brigade. The total-force nature of the training audience increased the training value and complexity of an already challenging exercise.

“This warfighter was a significant step forward in our effort to build a resilient joint force, not only through training on LSCO, but also through integrating National Guard and active-duty units because of their differing readiness levels,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Frank Klimas, 505th Command and Control Wing, Detachment 1 commander. “This exercise was a fantastic opportunity for Army Division Staffs to train together with their aligned Air Force support to exercise a robust air component in a LSCO battle space. The units took advantage, performed well, and, through the process, understood the value of an integrated joint force.”

The 505th CCW, Det. 1 led the air component replication effort for the WFX 23-2 by forward deploying its members across the country to execute exercise control responsibilities, support AOC operations, and fulfill observer, coach, and trainer duties.

At the training audience locations, the 505th CCW, Det 1 team integrated numerous observers, coaches, and trainers with subject matter expertise in tactical air control party, or TACP,  joint all-domain, airspace control, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations thereby improving the readiness of aligned air support operations squadrons’ Airmen.

“Our coaching concentration during the exercise was to provide the Airmen a look at themselves with respect to their integration into division staff processes,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Dustin Nedolast, 505th CCW, Det 1 director of operations. “Ultimately, our goal is that the Airmen leave the exercise more confident airpower advocates and liaisons within their staffs to better support LSCO.”

The 505th CTS provided AOC replication during WFX 23-2 and enabled robust training for Soldiers and Airmen throughout planning and execution. The operational-level air component replication both training audience divisions experienced exposed the staffs to a valuable level of realism they had not yet experienced in their train-up for WFX.  

“Training in LSCO necessitates training in joint air operations,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Power, 505th Combat Training Squadron director of operations, Hurlburt Field, Florida. “In every warfighter exercise, the air operations center replication cell delivers the U.S. Army a realistic expectation of the capabilities and limitations of joint air power.” 

"There’s a long-standing interdependency between land and air domains," said U.S. Army Col. Bryan Babich, MCTP commander. "That’s why it’s critical we maintain constant integration of the respective capabilities in our training as we operationalize our new multi-domain operations doctrine." 

“Replicating a robust air component in warfighter exercises supported by our resident experts from the 505th CCW is invaluable to our training audiences and their training objectives,” said Babich.

The 505th CS maintained crucial communications and simulation linkages between air participants within the AOC and the training audience’s integrated joint force. The 505th CS not only established the necessary network architecture before the exercise, but also maintained connectivity with division staffs during command post displacement operations.

“This is the second time that warfighter exercises have used the Army’s GAIT [Global Agile Integrated Transport] network, and the lessons learned from the previous exercise eliminated many of the initial connectivity challenges, allowing my team to keep the network support steady during the execution part of the exercise,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Alex Botardo, 505th Communications Squadron commander.

The 505th CTS and 505th CS at Hurlburt Field, Florida, report to the 505th Combat Training Group, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and the 505th CCW, Det 1, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, reports to the 505th CCW, which is headquartered at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

“The 505th CCW’s realistic air component replication enabled exercise success and bolstered joint warfighting proficiency in support of National Defense Strategy requirements,” said Klimas.