824 BDS exercise defensive capabilities

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt Christian Little
  • 93 AGOW

Over 100 members from the 820th Base Defense Group conducted the 824th Base Defense Squadron’s mission readiness exercise at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla., 18-25 August, 2023.

This mission readiness exercise was a five-day certification event designed to ensure the 824 BDS is prepared to conduct defensive operations in support of Lead Wing operations and deployments.

Once certified, the squadron will be able to assume an on-call status to respond anywhere in the world at any given time to execute area defense operations, offensive operations in support of defensive locations, mobile defense and even force protection mission sets.

“We’re looking at not just the single spectrum fight but looking across the full domain of warfare into emerging or known threats in the world,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Kiggins, 824th BDS commander. “We need to be prepared for anything that comes down the line from any adversary in any region of the world and making sure that we’re prepared to operate in contested and degraded environments across the full spectrum.”

The 824th BDS was flown to Avon Park AFR in an HC-130J Combat King II to initiate their continuous five-day exercise; they established a forward operating site complete with a tactical operations center, defensive fighting positions, military working dog patrols, listening posts and observation posts, and solar-powered communications, surveillance, and small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS).

Throughout the exercise, they established three contingency locations to rehearse securing airfields and austere operating locations with motorbikes, M4 carbines, M110 semi-automatic sniper systems, M240 machine guns, AT4 shoulder-fired rockets, and sUAS.

Agile combat employment relies upon these forward operating sites and contingency locations to provide temporary basing options for refueling and rearmament of aircraft closer to the fight to provide flexibility to combatant commanders in how they employ air assets.

“We bring a large capability to the fight, not just for the Air Force, but for the joint community as well,” Kiggins said. “The BDG isn’t a wide-known unit, but we’re capable and ready to put in the work and prepared to be that on-call force that can respond when needed.”

Friendly blue forces were subjected to an array of attacks from red forces comprised of the 823rd BDS who used both traditional and sUAS surveillance and reconnaissance to conduct indirect fires, sniper attacks, and integrated, complex attacks day and night in attempts to degrade security and impede blue force operations.

Exercise planners and red forces attempted to replicate a realistic threat environment and utilize tactics found in modern conflicts.

“When you keep these exercises realistic, it provides the squadron commander with the actual information of their squadron and identifies where their weaknesses are and what they need to improve upon,” said Capt. Bradley Ebers, 820th Base Defense Group exercise planner. “We need to test their capabilities and make sure they’re capable of doing what we need them to do come time for deployment.”

One of the objectives of the exercise was to push Airmen and their equipment to the limit, to identify deficiencies and improvement areas prior to real-world deployments.

“If we inject modern threat scenarios now and what we could possibly see in a future war mindset, then we're able to find where we fall short or have gaps within our capabilities, and it allows us to build those capabilities now before we get to the possible fight,” Kiggins said.

As the exercise evolved, exercise directors witnessed the 824th BDS make adjustments to operations to better face their adversaries.

“There were plenty of learning opportunities for everyone involved, I definitely think the Airmen came out of this exercise better than they went into it,” Ebers said. “Just in those three or four days, we saw them applying the lessons they learned in their operational planning.”