23rd Wing supports ACC Agile Combat Employment C3 Rehearsal

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Airmen from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, went to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Dec. 6-13, 2021, to showcase their technology and tactics in an Agile Combat Employment Command, Control and Communications Operations Rehearsal for the commander of Air Combat Command.

The 23rd Wing Airmen were the main players behind the test, which included participants and observers from other bases from ACC, U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa and Pacific Air Forces.

“This is a very communications driven event,” said Maj. Alexander Wilkie, ACC Agile Combat branch chief. “We're focused on how we communicate with aircraft, how we set up our communications networks and our ability to receive intelligence data and drive that information to help Lead Wing commanders make decisions.”

The rehearsal comes after the successful completion of the 23rd WG’s Mosaic Tiger 22-1, a Lead-Wing exercise that tested the command and control capabilities of an integrated wing-level air staff, wing operations center and air base squadron at two austere contingency locations. The exercise highlighted the importance of C2 when conducting agile operations — and how to execute the mission when standard communication channels go down.

“Our team gets the ‘why’ better than anyone else,” said Col. Russ Cook, 23rd WG commander, about how Moody’s proven track record made it ideal as the model for Lead-Wing development. “We’ve been extremely pragmatic and intentional while developing these tactics, and everyone on the teams gets it. We’re light years ahead of where the Air Force expected us to be, and it’s all thanks to our team of talented Airmen.”

Cook said the pragmatic approach helped identify which C2 systems work best in theory and which systems work within the confines of time, talent and resources available to a wing at any given moment. The exercises and working groups Cook has implemented since he took command in May 2021 has helped identify those strengths and shortfalls.

“There’s not one piece of technology that makes ACC more lethal or more resilient,” said Lt. Col. Adam Chitwood, commander of ACC’s Agile Battle Lab, which coordinated the rehearsal. “Because of that, we collaborated across commands to assemble C3 kits that will improve future capabilities. This is a learning environment so failure is allowed. We would rather identify equipment that doesn't work now, as opposed to buying more and then spending time on something that doesn’t work.”

One of those pieces of equipment from Moody was a Deployed Intelligence Combat Element kit, which aims to provide the ability to communicate securely between operators, communications Airmen, and intel units as well as maintaining communications between the forward operating base and their contingency location counterparts, even when their communication lines are compromised.

“The Rand Corporation did a study on the last 20 years of Air Force combat operations under the assumption that air bases are sanctuaries and communications are reliable,” said Maj. Christine Cuber, 23rd WG A-Staff director of intelligence. “Truth is that in a peer-to-peer conflict, our bases are targetable and our communications are vulnerable.”

To combat that vulnerability, the other equipment and software integrated by Airmen during the event included the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System, new tactical and commercial satellite communications systems, traditional military satellite communications systems, smart routing equipment, and cross domain devices.

Moreover, they experienced working with this equipment in an expeditionary environment, a necessary distinction when preparing Lead Wings for rapid mobilization to meet combatant commander needs.

“Airmen are getting a feel for expeditionary systems,” said Lt. Col. Stephanie Baskett, Expeditionary Communications branch chief, ACC/A6. “In a normal communications squadron, Airmen may not see an expeditionary kit unless they previously worked in a combat communications unit.”

This type of training will become more frequent and demanding as the 23rd WG gets closer to the deadline to be Lead-Wing ready by October 2022. The doctrine is catching up to the work these Airmen are doing, and the exercises or rehearsals help determine the standardized capabilities of a Lead Wing. Different equipment, mindsets and training will help Lead Wings execute combatant commander expectations of the future.

And all of these updates are due to the warfighting environment changing. ACC is addressing the challenges as outlined in the recently released Air Force Doctrine Note 1-21.

“ACE requires a revolutionary change in how the Air Force thinks about and conducts operations within the modern operational environment,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General CQ Brown Jr. “ACE complicates the enemy’s targeting process, creates political and operational dilemmas for the enemy, and creates flexibility for friendly forces.”

The ACE C3 Ops Rehearsal highlights the speed at which ACC is accelerating change and adapting to the ‘volatile, uncertain and complex’ threat environment through collaboration across the force.

“The ACE construct is a change in mindset. Our enemy has changed, so we need to change the way that we think, the way that we fight,” said Baskett. “This ACE C3 Ops Rehearsal is the cutting edge.”

*Information for this article came from https://www.acc.af.mil/News/Article/2877326/acc-concludes-agile-combat-employment-c3-ops-rehearsal/*