20th EMS leads first ever field flare build at Iron Hand 24-03

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mariana Tafur
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

As a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 15th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Charleston lands at North Auxiliary Airfield, North, May 13, members of the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron munitions flight from Shaw Air Force Base gear up to face exercise Iron Hand 24-03 for the first time.

Shaw conducts a series of Iron Hand exercises every year to challenge Airmen’s ability to carry out mission objectives with limited resources in remote places.

“It is one of two large-scale readiness exercises that the 20th Fighter Wing conducts each year,” said Lt. Col. Jordan Kahn, 20th FW chief of staff. “These exercises support the Air Force's concept of agile combat employment by putting small, multi-capable teams out at forward operating sites and then further dispersing them with even smaller teams.”

Munitions system specialists are responsible for handling, storing, transporting, arming, and dismantling a variety of weapon systems. Previously, 20th EMS munitions system specialists prepared M206 flares, a defense tool that is used by the F-16C Fighting Falcon, at Shaw AFB before they were transported to North Auxiliary Airfield for Iron Hand. When an aircraft needed their chaff and flare expenditures replaced, it would then be transported back to Shaw AFB.

However, for the first time ever, the 20th EMS munitions flight had a Internal Airlift/Helicopter Slingable Container Unit containing aircraft artillery delivered via C-17 Globemaster III to the exercise. This allowed 20th EMS munitions flight personnel to perform M206 flare builds throughout the exercise on location, enhancing training and mission readiness for real-life situations with minimal equipment.

“We were able to build chaff and flare in the middle of the field, which isn't something you normally do,” said Staff Sgt. Corbin Bennett, 20th EMS conventional maintenance crew chief. “We built up 240 sticks of chaff and flare and 9 bombs. Three people isn't normally what you would require for such a large-scale operation and doing three different operations at once can be kind of hard, but we made it work with the help of the other units.”

These $50,000 M206 flare sets serve as optical countermeasures against heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles, keeping the F-16s protected during any unforeseen enemy attack.

Having the opportunity to train and challenge Airmen’s capability to efficiently complete a mission with restricted gear and time strengthens Shaw troops as a whole, thereby enhancing Air Force airpower immensely.

“They have to learn to deal with limited equipment, limited experience, and accomplish the mission,” said Kahn. “Hopefully what people take away from this is sizing their teams and figuring out which core competencies we need. Then also, how to be agile when you don't have the full support of the main operating base that you're at.”