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380th AEW supports ACE exercise “Agile Tuskegee”

  • Published
  • By TSgt Jeffrey Grossi
  • 380 AEW
The 380th Air Expeditionary Wing supported and participated in exercise “Agile Tuskegee” July 12-13, Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. The exercise, led by Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central), demonstrates the flexibility of U.S. airpower assets and its interoperability with partner nations for enhanced security of the region.
 
The rapid deployment exercise consisted of: forward operating location establishment, simulated combat sortie generation, aerial refueling, hot-pit refueling, cold-pit maintenance and refueling, and command and control procedures; all designed to test the U.S. Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment capabilities.

“By hosting Agile Combat Employment exercises at Al Dhafra in a wartime environment, the 380th AEW gained valuable training that improved our wing’s combat capability,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Turner, the chief of current operations for the 380th AEW. “Supporting this event and training our airmen has contributed to increasing the wing’s flexibility to support airpower asset basing and staging in the AOR.”
 
But what is ACE? What does it mean? According to Turner, it essentially means moving assets in a light, lean and agile way, that are already forward deployed to a theatre. This increases survivability of those assets while generating combat power.
 
Maj. Steve Draughon, the commander of the 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, adds to this idea saying, “The goal of Agile Combat Employment is for operators, maintainers, and other support personnel to be able to operate for a limited amount of time in potentially austere locations with limited to no support thus leaving a minimal footprint — opposite of a large footprint of a base. This hinders an adversary’s ability to plan and target American and allied assets. Another goal is to create multi-capable Airmen who are able to perform tasks outside their core Air Force Specialty Codes. This reduces the manpower footprint and increases the maneuverability of ACE forces.”

The exercise began with in-flight refueling on the way to ADAB. Then, the two U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles landed for refueling and post-flight operational checks, before moving to their next location. This provided 14 Airmen assigned to the 380th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants section the ability to train on “hot pit” refueling operations. Hot pit refueling occurs when an aircraft is fueled immediately after landing, while the aircraft keeps one engine running.
 
“This enables a quicker re-launch time to get the aircraft back into the fight,” said Master Sgt. Cody Messinger, the production superintendent of the 335th Expeditionary Fighter Generation Squadron. “We also used the exercise as a way to test the minimum manning and equipment required for our unit to travel to an ‘austere’ environment and quickly turn our aircraft. We only brought six personnel and two of our ACE backpacks, which have a small toolbox’s worth of hand tools to do a good many of the maintenance tasks on the F-15E.”
 
Staff Sgt. Ramiro Garcia Arreguin, Jr. and Senior Airman Jody Allen, were the two crew chiefs assigned to the 335th EFGS ACE team. Although they had to adapt to new conditions, working in a hot pit is a common task for the duo, one they exercise weekly at their home station.
 
“The role in ADAB was a bit unique for both me and Staff Sgt. Garcia,” said Allen. “Normally, I work several jets a day. Anywhere from leading a major repair process, going to multiple jets to assist and guide younger Airmen, troubleshooting major issues, or my personal favorite, getting in the seat and running the jet to either troubleshoot or verify a fix. So ‘crewing a flyer’ – which is the launch, recovery, and inspection process – isn’t something I get to do a lot. Doing it with so little manning was a challenge, but one we are always ready to step up to.”
 
Despite these limitations, the team’s confidence in one another outweighed the challenge.
 
Garcia Arreguin said, “Coming to ADAB, we were essentially doing a combat hot refuel at a base with minimal tools, personnel and a brand new POL crew. Back in our home station, we would have everything set up and stationed prior to jets coming down. The main concern we had was the incoming wind direction, which affects how we position the whole operation. Besides that we were solid.”
 
At their home unit, Alen and Garcia Arreguin have maintenance tleams, three to four times the size, to accomplish the work needed during Agile Tuskegee. Messinger said that only bolstered his teams confidence in their ability to conduct ACE style Operations and that the 380th EMXS were a huge help to keeping the process as smooth as possible.
 
“The base as a whole came together, said Danny Mingura, the production superintendent of the 380th EMXS. “From the second they landed and were taken to in-process, to getting their work space setup, this installation really came together and made it seamless for the team that came out. The joint effort of the installation is what made both ‘Agile Tuskegee’ and the ACE possible. We flexed where we had to, proving our processes, whether it be eight or 800 personnel. Two aircraft or 20, we showed that we are ready to ramp up at a moment’s notice.”