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Bushwhacker 22-07: Deploy, sustain, employ, recover

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Paige Weldon
  • 355th Wing Public Affairs

Over 300 Airmen from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base participated in an Agile Combat Employment training exercise, Bushwhacker 22-07. This operational training was a part of the Lead Wing certification process and allowed DM to prepare for the final certification exercise, which is projected to take place in 2023.

The Lead Wing concept allows a base to forward deploy multiple units at a moment's notice in order to achieve the establishment of a cohesive and successful call to duty by delivering combat power anywhere in the world.

For this iteration of Bushwhacker, Airmen were spread across multiple locations in Virginia, including Joint Base Langley-Eustis and Naval Air Station Oceana.

“One of the benefits of having the exercise in Virginia instead of Davis-Monthan is that we can separate ourselves from our home station,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Eric Cline, 355th Wing Inspector General's office wing exercise manager. “The logistical challenges that came with moving across the country created a learning opportunity for everyone involved.”

Throughout the exercise, Airmen faced a variety of training scenarios in order to access and reinforce their multi-capable Airmen skills and ability to adapt to different environments.

“We are on the edge of innovation,” said Cline. “At the beginning of the exercise, Col. Scott Mills (355th Wing Commander) said, ‘break glass’ meaning, to push the boundaries and not be afraid to make mistakes. I believe that's exactly what we’ve done. This is one of the most dynamic exercises that we've done to date, and that really helps us figure out what capabilities we can improve on.” 

Airmen remained agile and ready during all potential simulated threats and complications, despite 24-hour operations.

In addition to the Airmen participating, a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook, its aircrew and U.S. Navy firefighters aided in the success of BW 22-07. The Army aircrew transported Airmen and equipment to the various locations throughout the area while the Navy firefighters offered support by being present and ready at all A-10 Thunderbolt II launches and recoveries. The U.S. Army’s 7th Transportation Brigade operated vessels and local civil air patrol brought airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to support the exercise as part of the oppositional forces.

Running alongside with Bushwhacker 22-07 was Air Combat Command’s Agile Battle Laboratory’s Force Protection Operations Rehearsal. While Airmen from the wing focused on execution as a Lead Wing, the ABL worked to validate and exercise groundbreaking technology, tactics and unit organization to continue accelerating ACE operations. The lab teamed with the Naval Research Laboratory and private industry partners to introduce new tools and techniques to defeat simulated adversary long-range ISR and reduce the threat of cruise and ballistic missiles. The lab also introduced Air Defense Artillery Coordination Officers to the wing’s command and control team, who provided joint coordination for simulated Patriot and missile defense in support of ACE maneuvers against a realistic long-range threat.

"These sorts of advancements in what we provide the force will be crucial to meeting the needs of ACE to support the National Defense Strategy." said Lt. Col. Dustin Bennett, Agile Battle Lab commander. "We're thrilled with the feedback we received on our projects from the 355th, and look forward to working alongside them again in the future."

Through continuous training, joint operations and preparation, DM’s ability to relocate bases to new locations with minimal notice helps share the Air Force’s future employment strategies.