AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --
During Operation Agile Spartan, airmen and soldiers at Al Dhafra Air Base mobilized to geographically separate locations as part of an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) exercise March 10-12, 2023.
The exercise demonstrated the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing’s ability to conduct command and control and establish base operating support and mission generation across multiple simulated the cluster locations while executing MQ-9 Reaper launch and recovery operations.
To accomplish this end, two independent teams of service members operated at three different locations over the course of the exercise. Each team was comprised of personnel with different Air Force specialty codes (AFSCs) and military occupational specialties (MOSs) to ensure the simulated cluster location could accomplish tasks that required expertise.
Prior to the start of the exercise, the cross-section of specialized airmen received training on common tasks, producing multi-capable airmen (MCA) and enabling the minimum footprint necessary to accomplish the mission.
Senior Master Sgt. John Whitfield, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Air Staff operations maintenance superintendent and ACE exercise co-lead, set the teams on the path to success over the course of the last five months.
“Our goal was to lay a foundation that is repeatable, sustainable and predictable for ADAB to produce airpower,” said Whitfield. “This exercise was the proof of concept that we could take airmen and soldiers from all different AFSCs/MOSs, train, organize and equip them and develop them into MCA organically.”
MCA training is focused on providing advanced readiness skills outside a member’s AFSC or MOS in critical roles such as mission generation, command and control, and base operating support in austere and challenging contested environments. This allows for smaller contingency groups to establish operations, which is particularly important to the ACE concept.
“ACE is a scheme of maneuver to complicate our adversary’s targeting," said Col. Tanner Woolsey, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Air Staff director of operations, or A3. "It shifts the mindset of airpower projection from large, centralized bases to smaller, austere locations which are networked for centralized command, distributed control, and decentralized execution. Combined with the MCA enabler, ACE increases force survivability while generating combat power.”
Over the course of the exercise, the teams launched and recovered MQ-9 Reapers nine times at three different simulated cluster locations after successfully moving 80,000 lbs of equipment to the austere locations and establishing necessary operating support functions.
Whitfield was heartened by the progress the team made for this exercise and the future developments of the ACE concept.
“We as a military are ever-evolving. We are not a fighting force that sticks to the way we have always done it. We adapt the future fighting methods and strategies that give us an advantage," said Whitfield. "This exercise showcases and highlights that ability to plan, move and operate with a small footprint and be able to sustain those efforts.”