NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. â€” Weapons Instructor Course students simulated â€œkicking down the doorâ€ 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 â€œjoint forcible entryâ€ operation.
â€œAll three parts are important; â€ said Lt. Col. Brian Wald, 57th Weapons Squadron commander, from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehust, N. J. â€œIt 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.â€
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.
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, â€œWeapons Officer,â€ 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 serviceâ€™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.
â€œThe 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,â€ 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 â€œjoint forcible entry,â€ the RED HORSE Squadron must drop construction equipment and airborne engineers first so the aircraft are able to land as soon as possible.
â€œThis puts a lot of assets on the ground very quickly to recover strategic airfields,â€ said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Tully, 820th RED HORSE Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of the airborne fire fighter team. â€œIn order to land aircraft, youâ€™ve got to have the airfield repaired. Thatâ€™s our job.â€
All service branches and experts from different career fields rely on each other to get the job done safely and efficiently.
â€œIt takes all the pieces to give you the ability to dominate the battlespace in a way to make this happen,â€ said Wald. â€œIt canâ€™t happen if itâ€™s not integrated, and it absolutely canâ€™t happen if itâ€™s not joint. So, collectively everyone has to come together to make this work.â€