AVON PARK AIR FORCE RANGE, Fla. --
An emergency situation is heating up in an undisclosed location, as violence and hostility erupts in a rash of villages, tensions build. The nation has no choice but to ask the U.S. Air Force for assistance.
In order to provide that assistance, the Air Force will task a unique squadron with specialized capabilities to deploy to that location and set up a bare base, in less than 72 hours.
That’s what it means to be a Global Response Force and that’s what the 822d Base Defense Group validated during their Mission Readiness Exercise March 2-14, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla.
“The point of the MRX is to validate the unit, it certifies our capabilities and gets us back on GRF status,” said Staff Sgt. Karonja Knight, 822d BDS training NCO. “It’s important because it’s realistic and helps us get in the right mindset before we’re eligible to deploy. Once we complete the MRX we’re on call, so if anything happens anywhere in the world we can be called on to step in.”
The 820th Base Defense Group, which the 822d BDS falls under, is the Air Force's sole unit that houses GRF ready squadrons. Their mission is to provide high-risk force protection and integrated base defense for expeditionary air forces and the 822d BDS trains so they can deploy quickly and efficiently, whether actually deploying or participating in an MRX.
“This makes sure that we’re ready to go anywhere in the world in 72 hours or less,” said Airman 1st Class Daniel Keller, 822d BDS fireteam member. “That’s important because as a superpower in this world we have be able to be anywhere in a moment’s notice and this helps get us there. There’s no point in having a great Air Force if you’re there last.”
Getting there quickly helps ensure the 822d BDS accomplishes their mission, but once they’re in the location, they are their first and last line of defense. The 820th BDG is the only Air Force unit that conducts integrated base defense in high-threat areas, forcing them to constantly train how they fight.
“This is to showcase training we’ve done over the last couple of months,” said Tech. Sgt. Carl Hook, 822d BDS, alpha flight chief. “It’s important that we get this right, but any mistakes we make here we make sure to correct before we deploy so those mistakes aren’t made once we’re overseas.”
The training the 822d BDS accomplished before MRX was designed to ensure they’d be successful during the MRX, while the MRX tested their capability to provide rapidly deployable, integrated defense capabilities in a volatile environment.
To make the exercise as realistic as possible, the BDS treated the MRX like they would an actual deployment to a remote location. Twenty members parachuted into the location 12 hours ahead of supplies, equipment and shelter, and provided the initial security and minimal equipment needed to set up a bare base.
The remaining forces bring everything essential to run a fully functioning Tactical Operation Center, where key leadership and intelligence personnel provide information and direction to Airmen outside the wire. They also bring armored transportation, weapons, ammunition, medical supplies, meals, ground communication and shelter.
“This is extremely realistic,” Hook added. “[The testers] get opposing forces from other squadrons to test us with different scenarios. From snipers, to a person with a suicide vest coming to the gate, to the interaction with locals in nearby villages.
“The people validating us have checklists to make sure we’re proficient in all of those items,” Hook added. “We have to make sure we’re proficient so we can get that validation, but for right now I’m very pleased with the way the flight has been operating. The biggest thing is keeping that motivation. In an austere location you don’t have the luxuries you do at an established base, but the motivation the Airmen have shown is what’s going to make us successful, whether it’s here or overseas.”
Hook added that an important piece of staying motivated is knowing your role and how important the MRX is to helping you fulfill it.
“This is my second MRX so this time I have a lot more responsibility than I did last time and am getting more training,” commented Keller. “It feels good going out, breaking wire and interacting with locals, I feel like I’m on the varsity team now.”
Training keeps the team proficient, but the time they spend together has created a bond and culture that holds them together.
“We’re tough on each other, but that’s because when we go downrange we’ve gotta have each other’s back,” said Hook. “I’ve worked in other security forces squadrons, but the culture here is unique. It has the highest morale I’ve seen in my career and it’s the most family oriented.
“When you’re downrange, this is your family,” Hook added. “That’s your brother and your sister to your left and right. That’s what Safeside is to us.”