Air Force

June 1, 2012

The Three-Million Acre Classroom

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By Staff Sgt. William P. Coleman

A C-17 Globemaster III from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., drops equipment used for a rapid runway repair during a Mobility Air Forces Exercise May 23, 2012, at the Nevada Test and Training Range. After all the equipment was dropped, airborne engineers from the 820th RED HORSE Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., cleared and repaired a dirt runway.

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Weapons Instructor Course students simulated “kicking down the door” into a enemy country by air-dropping an entire brigade of troops to seize a runway, May 23.

The U.S. Air Force Weapons School conducted its Mobility Forces Exercise, or MAFEX, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. and the Nevada Test and Training Range. The mass air mobility exercise, in which nearly 70 aircraft primarily consisting of C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules aircraft, practiced
a “joint forcible entry” operation.

“All three parts are important; ” said Lt. Col. Brian Wald, 57th Weapons Squadron commander, from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehust, N. J. “It is joint because of sister services supporting each other, forcible because we are conducting parachute operations in anti-access environments and the entry piece is the ability to sustain the area.”

In the scenario, U.S. forces had to enter a simulated defended enemy country, defeat defending air defense forces and put troops on the ground.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nick Mosier, 820th RED HORSE Squadron explosive ordnance disposal craftsman, gathers his equipment after jumping out of a C-130 Hercules during a Mobility Air Forces Exercise May 23, 2012, at the Nevada Test and Training Range, Nev. Mosier, along with other EOD Airmen, cleared improvised explosive devices out of the area to allow a safe repair of the runway.

Coordinating and executing the exercise was significant challenge for students of the six-month, post-graduate-level Weapons Instructor Course. When the students graduate in June, they will have earned the title, “Weapons Officer,” and the Weapons School Graduate patch. The patches signify they have the expertise to advise military leaders at any level on the use of Air Force and sister service’s capabilities in concert.

The centerpiece of the exercise was the airborne drop of a brigade-sized unit – placed on target where the Army wanted it to land.

“The unique thing about MAFEX is the amount of airlift we have, which stands at 21 C-17s and 29 C-130s, an absolutely sufficient capacity to drop that whole brigade,” said Wald.

The students mastered their skills on the Nevada Test and Training Range, a 2.9 million acre range that maintains the densest threat simulator environment in the world. The NTTR provides year-round training to US and allied forces in a variety of exercises.

The anti-access environment in this MAFEX was caused by enemy forces, which had to be neutralized before any of the drop operations could begin. To do this, an array of Air Force fighter jets and A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft flew into the area to provide airstrikes and patrol the drop zone.

Also performing air drops during the exercise were the 820the RED HORSE Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The airborne section of the 820th has the unique capability of dropping equipment and personnel from C-17s and C-130s and then performing a rapid runway repair.

If the runway is damaged during the “joint forcible entry,” the RED HORSE Squadron must drop construction equipment and airborne engineers first so the aircraft are able to land as soon as possible.

“This puts a lot of assets on the ground very quickly to recover strategic airfields,” said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Tully, 820th RED HORSE Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of the airborne fire fighter team. “In order to land aircraft, you’ve got to have the airfield repaired. That’s our job.”

All service branches and experts from different career fields rely on each other to get the job done safely and efficiently.

“It takes all the pieces to give you the ability to dominate the battlespace in a way to make this happen,” said Wald. “It can’t happen if it’s not integrated, and it absolutely can’t happen if it’s not joint. So, collectively everyone has to come together to make this work.”

U.S. Air Force equipment from the 820th RED HORSE Squadron, descends for support during Mobility Air Force Exercise May 23, 2012, over the Nevada Test and Training Range. Members of the 820th RED HORSE Airborne Squadron are capable of parachuting into heavily damaged airfields and rapidly returning them to service for use by friendly forces.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Colby Fulton, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron combat controller from Hurlburt Air Force Base, Fla., looks over the range for C-130 Hercules planes during Mobility Air Forces Exercise May 23, 2012, on the Nevada Test and Training Range. Members of the squadron controlled the landing zone.

A U.S Air Force C-17 Globemaster III from Dover Air Force Base, Del. lands during a Mobility Air Forces Exercise May 23, 2012, at the Nevada Test and Training Range. The C-17 is 174 feet long and has a wingspan of about 170 feet, and is able to airlift cargo fairly close to a battle area.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew Lengal, 18th Air Support Operations Group Air Liaison Officer from Fort Bragg N.C., communicates with C-17 Globemaster III as they land during a Mobility Air Force Exercise May 23, 2012, on the Nevada Test and Training Range. Airman and Soldiers from more than five units took part of the ground support portion of MAFEX.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Colby Fulton, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron combat controller from Hurlburt Air Force Base, Fla., watches an A-10 Warthog provide low air support during Mobility Air Forces Exercise May 23, 2012, on the Nevada Test and Training Range. Combat controllers are in constant contact with pilots.

U.S. Air Force Weapons School students and evaluators walk from a C-130 Hercules on the flightline at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., after participating in the Mobility Air Forces Exercise May 23, 2012, over the Nevada Test and Training Range. The students attended graduate-level instructor courses which provide the world’s most advanced training in air, space and cyber weapons and tactics employment.




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