Exercise READY DRAGON tests Beale’s readiness to deploy, operate

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alexis Pentzer
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing (RW) executed Exercise READY DRAGON on June 3-6 to test the wing's ability to rapidly deploy and support operations down range.

Approximately 184 Airmen from the 9th RW, the 940th Air Refueling Wing and other supporting units participated in Exercise READY DRAGON to explore the application of Agile Combat Employment as the wing prepares for their upcoming deployment cycle.

To ensure the Air and Space Force capability to project power into and operate from locations in highly contested environments, the U.S.’ National Defense Strategy emphasizes a focus in the development of operational concepts, such as ACE, and new technology to be more lethal, adaptive, resilient, and interoperable.

ACE is a proactive and reactive operational scheme of maneuver executed within threat timelines to increase survivability while continuing to generate combat power despite enemy attempts at saturation attacks on forward airfields.

“A Wing Operations Center, modeled after ACE principles, was set up to exercise the command-and-control function of establishing an Air Base that can expand its operation in the simulated United States Indo-Pacific Command Area-of-Responsibility,” said Maj. Matt Pianalto, 9th RW A3 Chief of Current Operations. “Our entire team was challenged; however, we look forward to applying lessons learned to improve upon established processes and testing those in the upcoming AGILE FLAG exercise.”

Airmen faced diverse scenarios designed to test their responses in a contested environment. Some of these events included airstrikes, ground assaults, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear events, communication failures, landing zone installation maneuvers and pararescue missions. Airmen were assessed by Wing Inspection Team members on their ability to accomplish mission essential tasks involving these scenarios.

“The Wing Inspection Team really put a lot into creating a realistic training event that was above and beyond anything ever tested at Beale AFB,” said Lt. Col. Amanda Murphy, 9th Reconnaissance Wing inspector general. “The Airmen of this wing truly rose to the occasion; I am so impressed by their dedication and fortitude.”

Developing improvised landing zones is essential for missions that are geographically separated from the flight line, which allow aircraft to safely operate in any region, despite the terrain. This exercise scenario tested the 9th RW and 940th ARW’s ability to cohesively deploy Airmen on the ground, post-attack, and assess and establish a landing zone, launch assets, and get off the ground all within threat timelines.

“The importance of this landing zone training event is to showcase something that airfield operations across the Air Force has been working toward for the last few years,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Cameron Piontek, 9th Operations Support Squadron landing zone safety officer. “The threat of peer adversaries being able to reach our CONUS bases with a kinetic strike is very real and we have to consider the potential that our airfields and mission support facilities are vulnerable. Should something like this happen, we have to have a way to get a team out on the airfield and assess what is usable and what is not, in order to launch our remaining assets and get them somewhere safe as soon as possible.”

With the help of 129th Rescue Wing from Moffat Air National Guard Base, California, the 9th RW was able to conduct a rescue of a simulated downed U-2 Dragon Lady pilot from the water. By working together, the 9th RW was able to support the Joint Personnel Recovery System by employing the Air Force human/equipment-based weapon system and provide specific expertise in the report, locate, support, recover, and reintegrate task.

“It was a great training opportunity for us at Beale and the pararescue jumpers,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alan Downs, 9th Operations Support Squadron Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) specialist. “SERE evaluated aircrew readiness to perform recovery tactics techniques procedures based off of SERE training as well as the unit's ability to report, locate, and support the isolated person. It also gave the pararescue jumpers training in performing water-based hoists.”

Exercise READY DRAGON expanded the 9th RW’s overall readiness to deploy at any time, in any environment. The lessons learned will be fine-tuned during exercise AGILE FLAG and employed during the 9th RW’s upcoming deployment cycle.