Team Little Rock prepares for semi-annual exercise

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Aaron Irvin
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Team Little Rock is preparing for a semi-annual deployment training exercise from April 1-17, 2019. The training is a continuation of a concerted effort to improve readiness capabilities, and will be split into two phases to train Airmen on potential scenarios that simulate deployed environments.

As the next exercise draws closer, U.S. Air Force Col. Gerald Donohue, 19th Airlift Wing commander, sat down to inform Team Little Rock on what to expect.

What does the exercise consist of?

The exercise will be set up as a classic Phase I and Phase II deployment.

In Phase I, we are going to be tasked with providing combat capability to a forward operating location. We will be tasked to push those assets out the door, ensuring our Airmen can do the deployment process in the face of opposition. We can expect a range of effects to be brought to bear against that deployment. For example, small-scale, terrorist-type activity we may encounter in the continental U.S. amidst of a broader global conflict and cyber-attacks. Anything that calls us to question the installation’s stability while fulfilling the deployment requirement could be a factor.

Phase II focuses principally on the deployed environment. In addition to having to secure the forward operating location against any sort of opposing ground force, there is always the threat of air attack. In the midst of those things, we still have to accomplish our mission, which is to project and sustain agile combat airlift in the face of those countless threats.

Are Airmen from other bases participating in similar training?

For our exercise in April, we will be teaming with Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. They will be providing some operations and maintenance capability to pair with our own. We chose this timeline because it’s the most appropriate with our other ongoing operations. Suffice it to say, installations throughout the U.S. and overseas are conducting a training regimen to ensure their Airmen are ready as well.

What does meeting multiple training objectives at a faster pace accomplish?

The timeline is a little bit longer due to the number of things we will be doing during the exercise. In the past, Phase I consisted of the deployment of forces while not being contested by the enemy. Throughout this exercise, we will go through a number of different scenarios. Rather than expecting our forces to deploy without opposition in a specified timeline, we are going to complicate the timeline by taking capabilities away, whether it be resources or an opposing ground force to break down the communication between teams on the installation. We will be using any number of methods to force Airmen to adapt, which takes a little more time.

Because we combine some annual exercise requirements that would otherwise require whole separate training events, we are able to use Airmen’s time exercising more judiciously and amplify the value they get from the experience, in the end leading more effective, more lethal combat airlifters.

What are we doing to mitigate issues of services provided on the base during the exercise?

The first thing we are going to do is get the word out that we are in fact going into the exercise and that it needs to happen. Each of the customer service sections impacted will have the ability to meet emergency requirements. Routine services such as the pass and ID office, public affairs, medical and communications squadron will be limited. If it’s not an emergent requirement, you may consider delaying your trip, or schedule it separately as to not face unreasonable wait times.

People should expect inconveniences. They’re necessary in order to train our Airmen.

What is the desired outcome of the training?

I don’t expect Airmen to be perfect when they are done. I expect them to be better, more capable and more ready than before. If our Airmen were to engage in real-world operations on April 1 versus April 17, the difference should be demonstrative. The difficult thing people need to remember is we will have to repeat, as we will be exercising on a semi-annual basis to ensure our capability doesn’t diminish and that we are prepared to respond on short notice.

The priority is to ensure our Airmen are more mission-ready, capable and prepared. We will grow through process improvements that need to be made and we will learn from requirement shortfalls that need to be filled.

What do you think the AF as a whole gets out of these types of exercises?

What I hope to provide the Air Force is mission-ready Airmen with a warrior spirit who understand how to do their job in the face of overwhelming opposition.

It’s an absolute honor to be able to work with the men and women of the 19th AW. The enthusiasm and vigor with which our team has attacked this challenge while improving our readiness has been inspiring to me. I look forward to being right there with you again in April.

Although it may be harder on Airmen and their families, the long-term impacts outweigh the temporary hardships to better prepare our Airmen in contested environments while improving operational effectiveness and efficiency. The training ensures Airmen are prepared for both asymmetrical and conventional warfare, if necessary.