Tactical Leader, Battle Staff Courses shapes future leaders

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Deanna Muir
  • 93d Air Ground Operations Wing

The 820th Base Defense Group plays a pivotal role in ensuring safe operations by securing air base infrastructure, safeguarding personnel and providing a strong defense posture to enable Air Force, Joint and Coalition missions.

In a joint environment with unpredictable challenges, dispersed execution and mission command becomes imperative for operational success and maintaining a lethal edge.

To create a more cohesive unit, the 820th BDG created a two-week Battle Staff Course for its unit leadership and merged its execution with the Group's existing Tactical Leader course for squad leaders. The first iteration of this combined training occurred Dec. 1-18, 2023, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

A Battle Staff consists of officers and non-commissioned officers working together to support command decision-making processes, manage resources, plan and direct subordinate missions, analyze intelligence, and oversee communications and logistics during military operations. Tactical leaders are senior airmen and NCOs appointed as leaders within their unit entrusted to make decisions at the ground level.

The Battle Staff course teaches Air Base Defense Doctrine and how to implement it into mission planning for tactical leaders to employ. The tactical leader course empowers Airmen to interpret, execute and conduct lower-level planning to support the commander’s intent in the Battle Staff’s operational orders.

“By immersing students in this intensive training regimen, the (Tactical Leader) course empowers Airmen with ample leadership opportunities, allowing them to make critical decisions throughout the entirety of the program,” said Senior Airman Garrett Montilla, 820th Combat Operations Squadron training instructor.

These courses culminated with a five-day field training exercise immersing tactical leaders and battle staff in real-world scenarios where they had the freedom to experiment, make mistakes, and most importantly, learn from them.

“They're working through very realistic problems in an environment where failure is totally fine because everything is executed in a controlled environment,” said Lt. Col. Justin Bateman, 822d Base Defense Squadron commander and course creator. “We have a chance to play it back and show them the decisions they made and let them reflect on it and figure out how to learn from it during the debriefing process.”

During the training exercise, students in the Battle Staff course produced an operational order for their squadron driving a series of tasks for tactical leaders in the field to execute.

“These orders guide the squads during missions, conducting area reconnaissance and gathering crucial intel from ground forces,” Montilla said. “They ultimately inform strategic decisions by shaping future operations and their dynamic scenarios.”

To initiate the exercise, the squad leader faced the challenge of maneuvering a squad through an enemy-contested area. Upon reaching the designated operating location with low visibility, they efficiently established a base in four hours which included digging 4-foot trenches for defensive positions and setting up communications with the Battle Staff.

Operating on minimal sleep, tactical leader students underwent frequent rotations as squad leaders and team leaders. Instructors evaluated them from the moment they received patrol orders to the end of each mission. These operations focused on denying adversarial access to key terrain and enemy movement as well as eliminating adversaries in proximity to bases, decreasing enemies’ capability and willingness to fight.

“I hope that they take away a better understanding of their role and what is required of them in an airbase defense environment,” Bateman said. “I also hope that they take away the realization that we all have a lot to learn and must stay growth-minded no matter our rank. Regardless, the students are growing and you can see that in their execution.”