Airmen, Soldiers and members of the Australian, Canadian and British air services took part in a Coalition Virtual Flag exercise at the 612th Air and Space Operations Center here, Sept. 17-20.
Coalition Virtual Flag’s purpose was to train on command and control in a simulated real-time environment. Allied AOC facilities from all around the world connected to the Distributed Mission Operation Center (DMOC) at Kirtland AFB, N.M., through information networks. There, planners from the 705th Exercise Squadron directed a variety of scenarios (acting as both friendly and enemy forces). These scenarios appeared on the participant’s screens, propelling service members to make split-second planning decisions. This type of training is essential to prepare for real-world operations.
“Throughout my Army career, I’ve always mixed live and virtual training and have applied the lessons learned in exercises onto the battlefield in Afghanistan,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joe Hilbert, 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment and 17th Fires Brigade exercise commander.
The U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army have been working side-by-side for almost 60 years. However, with force development and new advances in technology, processes can change. This requires a basic understanding of how both the U.S. Army and the Air Force operate. The end goal is often the same; however, the process of getting to that goal can vary dramatically between the two military branches.
“The Air Force has a different type of corporate culture than the Army, so the Battlefield Coordination Detachment (BCD) acts as the middle-man to facilitate operations between the Combined Forces Land Component Commander (CFLCC) and the Combined Forces Air Component Commander (CFACC),” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Robert LaPreze, 1st BCD. “These training opportunities are rare, so we are definitely grateful.”
Key tasks and functions of the BCD include being the CFLCC’s advocate within any given Combined/Joint Air and Space Operations Center while simultaneously acting as the CFACC’s subject matter expert on ground operations. This exercise allowed the unit to gain a better understanding of Air Force tactics, techniques and procedures, and how to be more equipped to apply them to real world situations that arise.
“Normally, an actual CFLCC is missing from the exercise and is virtually replicated by the DMOC but during this exercise was replicated utilizing Soldiers acting and providing ground support as the CFLCC.” U.S. Army Maj. Tony Daniels, 1st BCD. “However, this particular exercise included the CFLCC and allowed us to take Soldiers and provide them with more realistic training events, utilizing systems that they would use in a real world operation.”
This year, Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, brought the Coalition Virtual Flag Exercise to a whole new level. Their particular skill-set provides precision strike artillery which can be used to engage time sensitive targets, high value targets and other targets important to the Joint Forces Commander.
“Fires Brigades offer indirect fire that the Air Force can use instead of having to put aircraft in danger,” said U.S. Army Maj. Daniel Lloyd, 1st BCD. “Targets can be serviced by indirect fire, without having to threaten the lives of pilots… sometimes these methods can be faster.”
At any given moment in time, partner nations and various branches of the U.S. military can be thrown together to plan and execute contingency and humanitarian operations. To be the most efficient force possible they must train like they fight … together.
“In our case, we were able to take our entire battalion headquarters and train them on command and control aspects without having to physically put our battalions and brigades out on the ground (which would have cost millions of dollars),” Hilbert said.
The cost-effective training benefited all involved and allowed each of the services to gain a better understanding of one another’s capabilities and limitations on the battlefield and in the air.
“This has been a great opportunity to have exercise play with both Army and Air Force participants,” LaPreze said.
The next iteration of Coalition Virtual Flag will take place in September 2013.