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Moody AFB Airmen step up for Agile Flag 22-2

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. John Crampton
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Agile Flag 22-2 focused on increasing survivability through dispersion, flexibility, and agility against modern-day threats. The exercise challenged Airmen to do more than their normal jobs and show their abilities under a new kind of pressure.

During the exercise, one young lieutenant was a contingency location (CL) commander in charge of a small site dedicated to rapidly refueling and rearming fighter aircraft inside a simulated combat zone.

1st Lt. Alex Conatser, 71st Rescue Generation Squadron sortie generation flight commander, and his integrated combat turn (ICT) team stepped out of their every-day comfort zone to put themselves and emerging Lead Wing concepts to the test.

“It was a great opportunity, as a young lieutenant, to get the experience of being essentially a true commander,” Conatser said. “You're in charge of those 30 people, and you're responsible for their wellbeing and their success, and just giving them all the opportunities to be successful, which is what they do very well.”

The exercise required company grade officers to step into roles beyond the administrative duties they usually perform.

“The key to Agile Combat Employment is junior leaders having the information, resources, and autonomy they need to get the job done - whatever the task,” explained Col. Russ Cook, 23rd Wing commander. “Our contingency locations were run by junior officers and NCOs who rapidly deployed and generated aircraft from any location we sent them. The future for executing contested air operations is younger and faster – Agile Flag proved our leaders are up to the task.”

Tactical aspects of the job have their challenges, however stepping into the command role comes with new and often complex tasks.

“As maintenance, your primary goal is to learn aircraft, production, and everything that goes into maintenance,” Conatser said. “Whereas being a CL commander is truly just being a commander so you're blending security, communications, [fuel] troops, and the maintenance aspect all together, while watching out for all of your people.”

In previous Lead Wing exercises, contingency locations didn’t have a commander, only an enlisted lead. Master Sgt. Ramon Salas, 75th Fighter Generation Squadron production superintendent and senior enlisted leader for Conatser’s CL, was one of these leads and spoke to the success of having a junior officer on site.

“Coming from Exercise Mosaic Tiger, I believe we filled a lot of gaps that we were missing,” Salas said. “By introducing a CL commander for Agile Flag, it really helped take the burden off of one person by sharing that responsibility and enabled us to make smart, precise decisions when it came down to it.

“[Conatser] provided that different aspect that I felt I didn't see during Mosaic Tiger, and I believe by having him there with me at Agile Flag helped make this mission successful,” Salas added.

The Airmen at the contingency locations applied everything they learned from other exercises and overcame obstacles to achieve success.

“The whole team came together, everybody helping everybody,” Conatser said. “Our real challenges were external factors such as weather, heat conditions, thunderstorms, and then dealing with some communication issues, but nothing slowed us down.”

Despite the rigors and challenges, the leaders of the CLs had positive things to say about the experience.

“It really took us out of our comfort zone in our day-to-day life of maintenance and stepping into a world of making command decisions on security and combat turning jets,” Salas said. “I was really proud of my team. Whatever adversities they faced, they rolled with the punches and stepped up to the plate.”

Through sweltering heat, logistical labyrinths, and chaotic storms, the 23rd Wing Airmen came together to lead the way for the recent Agile Flag exercise’s success at the contingency locations.