Joint Full Mission Profile exercise empowers Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Courtney Sebastianelli
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Mission Command is a philosophy of leadership that proves Airmen with a clear understanding of commander intent can operate in uncertain, complex and rapidly changing environments without delay.

In alignment with this philosophy, the 38th Rescue Squadron, 823rd Base Defense Squadron and 820th Combat Operations Squadron conducted a joint Full Mission Profile exercise at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Nov. 2, 2023. The exercise gave Airmen an opportunity to sharpen skills while also validating new team leaders’ abilities to make decisions reflecting command intent. 

“It’s extremely important for Airmen to be able to understand command objective,” said Capt. Carlo Policastro, 38th Rescue Squadron assistant director of operations. “As we move towards that near-peer, that is something that is going to be a reality. Command will need Airmen to execute the intent because the days of being able to rely solely on comms is not always going to be a possibility. The Air Force recognizes that higher level leadership has to trust the training of lower-level leadership to make decisions in real-time.”

The FMP exercise simulated operations in a contested environment requiring mission planning and execution in real-time. The 18 hour day consisted of mission execution, drone surveillance operations, free fall jumps from an HC-130J Combat King II, navigation to a simulated downed aircraft, collection of a sensitive item and locating isolated personnel all while engaging opposition forces played by the 820th COS. 


“Providing the team leader and the element leader with several decision-making points during a FMP is done to push them to make an uncomfortable decision one way or another,” said Staff Sgt. Bradford Thornburg, 38th Rescue Squadron pararescueman. “I think we kind of handicap ourselves in trainings sometimes by doing the same thing over and over; by branching out and cross-pollinating with other squadrons we find friction points and have real challenges and threats to avoid. We aim to create an environment where something could happen and when it does our Airmen have to rise to the occasion and lead the team.”

According to Thornburg, by using drones for area surveillance and with Airmen on the ground, both the PJs and the BDS were empowered to make decisions in real- time. Taking initiative with the resources available was a key component of the exercise. Preparing Airmen to take initiative comes from a concept explaining that decisions regarding tactical employment are improved when made by those closest to the fight. 

“Our main mission is to deter any enemy that is going to be coming to try and take our assets,” said Senior Airman Garrett Montilla, 820th COS training instructor. “Having an opportunity to work with the 38th RQS gave us an opportunity to go against an unconventional force using assets we had. It empowered us to get into the mindset of what our enemies and certain locations would use for tactics and how we can further develop our techniques and tactical training procedures to deter any enemy.”

Montilla went on to explain that the training prohibited radio use in an effort to challenge Airmen to control a fire team and make a decision without someone telling them what to do or how to respond. 

“If I’m on my own, I need to be able to direct my Airmen to react properly and deny the enemy from gaining access to certain locations,” Montilla said. “It came to the extent that we were making decisions without even communicating that we were flanking or placing equipment in certain locations to get the best advantage.”

According to Policastro, confident decision making also fosters flexibility thus enabling Airmen to adapt within a contested environment. The exercise encouraged Airmen to acclimate themselves to the role of decision makers within any situation.  

“Flexibility is extremely important,” Montilla said. “Not everything is going to be conducted one way – that’s a mindset we need to get out of in the Air Force. You may have a mission that requires so many personnel and you may not get all of them. You have to be able to take measured risk and assess what you can do within your means and make that leap to execute the mission,” he further explained. “The quicker and lighter we can keep our personnel and the more we can be trained to act quickly in the moment with flexibility the greater the success of the mission.”

Training with multiple units and allowing Airmen to make mission critical decisions on the tactical level creates a high level of adaptiveness and allows Airmen to clearly see the outcome of their actions.

“For this training, there wasn’t someone that had to guide the Airmen and hold their hands the entire time,” Montilla said. “Airmen have to be able to respond without fear ... They have to be able to make decisions for either themselves or the Airmen next to them. Understanding the mission objective and taking initiative to respond to the threat with flexibility was really what this training was all about.”

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