SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. — The 505th Command and Control Wing completed its third iteration of Agile Combat Employment command and control training with the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, in preparation for the 20th FW’s execution of Exercise IRON HAND in late August.
Exercise IRON HAND will prepare the 20th FW to deploy into theater as a lead Air Expeditionary Wing. The exercise will test their ability to command and control their wing aircraft and personnel while executing ACE.
Lead wings align, train and exercise in order to arrive in theater as a fully combat capable force ready to forward project airpower for a combatant commander.
Forces must be able to rapidly insert, establish logistics and communications with theater C2, receive follow-on forces, generate the mission, and project combat power across all domains, while making the critical decisions needed to remain agile.
The 505th CCW ACE training team provided academics, guided discussions, and table-top exercise allowing the 20th FW leadership to solve real-world problems under the mentoring and instruction of the 505th’s C2 subject matter experts. The C2 lessons prepared the 20th FW and their expeditionary fighter squadron to execute wing-level Exercise IRON HAND.
ACE academic training includes lessons on C2 fundamentals, such as: the role of the Joint Force Air Component Commander and the Commander Air Force Forces; the role of the Air Force Forces staff; the role of the Air Operations Center; command relationships; conditions based authorities; command and control considerations; and tactical chat standards.
Lt. Col. John Staudt, 505th CCW operational warfare instructor, and David Hetzler, 705th Training Squadron weapons and tactics instructor, delivered these academic lessons to 45 members of the 20th FW staff over two three-hour sessions.
Highlights from the lesson showcased a wing operations center staff function and responsibilities, commander’s considerations for C2 seminar, and detailed chat standards to reduce communication redundancy and increase accuracy.
The 20th FW ACE Operational Planning Team immediately applied these concepts to their planning efforts Exercise IRON HAND.
“The 705 TRS uses their AOC and AFFOR expertise to provide the lead wings with integration considerations between the lead wing and operational command and control,” stated Hetzler.
“The wide range of advanced academics lends itself to providing much needed tactics, techniques, and procedures to the lead wing commander and staff.”
During the second day of training, the 505th instructors walked the 20th FW staff through six vignettes. These vignettes were designed as a crawl-walk-run approach to solving ACE-related C2 problems, each increasing in complexity and impact to the mission.
The 20th FW staff was set up in their battle rostered positions within their fighter generation squadron operations center during the training, operating as if they were deployed in-place to solve each problem presented.
As each vignette was delivered, the 20th FW worked on how specific voice and data would be exchanged using their primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency communication plan. The staff members worked through each problem set, ensuring they remained focused on mission generation while balancing risk.
At the conclusion of each vignette, the 505th CCW instructors ran a debrief ensuring all aspects of planning were considered.
“The Air Force needs us to employ air power differently, ACE is how we are going to do it,” said Staudt.
“The training provided by the 505th CCW helps wings accelerate change at the tactical level and modernize their C2 process for resilient operations in a near-peer fight.”
The 505th CCW continues to provide critical ACE C2 training to units tasked with performing ACE operations during future deployments. The wing provided training to the 366th Fighter Wing, Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, and 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina prior to AGILE FLAG deployment readiness exercises in 2020.
“Successful operations and combat support in a contested environment demand maximum delegation, trust, and empowerment of Airmen before conflict starts. We must empower Airmen at all levels, delegating to the lowest capable and competent level possible, mindful that with empowerment and trust comes accountability,” said Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown, Air Force Chief of Staff.
The 20th FW will use the wing C2 skills they learned during Exercise IRON HAND in late August and during future deployment readiness exercises.
“In order to be effective at employing ACE, our awareness of and integration across the spectrum of multi-domain operations must grow concurrently,” said Maj. Matthew Feeman, 20th Fighter Wing ACE lead planner.
“Having experts like the 505th Command and Control Wing share their best practices, when the 20th Fighter Wing is organically devoid of C2 expertise, enables effective simulation of command & control processes during IRON HAND 21-08; thereby enabling evaluation one of the most crucial ACE tenets.”
By Deb Henley, 505th Command and Control Wing Public Affairs, 605th Test and Evaluation Squadron