Multi-capable Airmen come together for Exercise Bushwhacker 21-07

Airmen from Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., implemented the Dynamic Wing concept with Exercise Bushwhacker 21-07, Oct. 4-8, 2021.

This exercise helped broaden and refine skillsets DM Airmen gain from training outside of their career specialties to provide the wing the ability to rapidly deploy agile and self-sufficient forces.

A U.S. Air Force Airman arrives at a simulated austere environment during Exercise Bushwhacker 21-07 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Oct. 4, 2021. Bushwhacker exercises are intended to improve upon the Dynamic Wing concept, testing and enhancing DM’s multi-capable Airmen in establishing, sustaining, and defending the base with organic command and control. (U.S. Air Force by Staff Sgt. Kristine Legate)

“Our Airmen are able to perform duties outside of their Air Force Specialty Codes,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Leif Nordhagen, 355th Wing director of Agile Combat Employment. “On day one, all personnel were aiding in setting up tents, providing security, and establishing internal and external communication — it didn’t matter if they were a communication or civil engineer troop, or a maintainer — they were chipping in to get the job done.”

Multi-capable Airmen training held at DM offers knowledge in expeditionary skills to fight and survive in contested and austere environments. This allows DM to reduce the footprint and size of deployed forces, enabling ACE capabilities.

“With evolving technology, our enemies’ weaponry can not only reach our already established bases, but they can target them as well,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Joseph Turnham, 355th Wing commander. “We have to be able to move around so that we’re not that easy fixed target for our adversaries.”

To combat that developing threat, ACE was introduced to reduce the dependency from those airfields by providing adaptable, self-sufficient forces.

“MCA are the foundation of ACE,” Turnham said. “The whole premise of this exercise is disaggregating our forces across theater while still generating rescue and attack airpower. They provide us with the capabilities to spread out, further complicating our adversaries’ targeting situation while also sustaining our forces.”

This iteration of Bushwhacker focused on base operations and support while observing how Airmen effectively respond to conventional and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives, known as CBRNE, attacks. A small element of DM’s Dynamic Wing participated in a simulated forward deployment to Gila Bend, Arizona, where they established a short-term contingency location and faced simulated attacks from adversaries.

U.S. Air Force Airmen construct tents in a simulated austere environment in Sunglow City, during Exercise Bushwhacker 21-07 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Oct. 4, 2021. Bushwhacker allowed DM to execute and test agile combat employment processes and timelines to pack up, load, and reestablish wing facilities and command and control structures at newly assigned locations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristine Legate)

“Airmen executed how to set up, defend, sustain, operate, command and control and relocate an airbase,” Nordhagen said. “The team forward deployed to Gila Bend to minimize the distance from take-off location to the area of responsibility. This reduced transit time, eliminated a reliance on in-flight refueling, and created enough on-station time to meet mission objectives.”

Bushwhacker allowed DM Airmen to execute and test ACE processes and timelines to pack up, load, and reestablish wing facilities and command and control structures at dynamically identified forward locations. It incorporated Guardian Angels, an HC-130J Combat King II and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from DM, Airmen on temporary duty assignment from out of state, U.S. Army CH-47 Chinooks from Ft. Carson, Colorado, and Army National Guardsmen from various states implementing a Joint Personnel Recovery Task Force required for future major combat operations.

“Our Dynamic Wing fits into the first generation of lead wings and this showcases how we achieve that,” Turnham said. “It demonstrates how we provide command and control elements and move forces around theater to deliver rescue and attack, while also being able to provide command and control to other forces. DM and its Airmen are continuously proving that we’re agile, giving us operational unpredictability.”

Exercises like Bushwhacker shape the Air Force’s future employment strategies. Through continuous training, DM Airmen balance the need for robust capabilities with the need for agility and the ability to relocate bases to new locations with minimal notice.

A U.S. Air Force Airman assigned to the 52nd Combat Communications Squadron from Robbins Air Force Base, Georgia, sets up a satellite in a simulated austere environment in Sunglow City at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Oct. 4, 2021. Bushwhacker allowed DM to execute and test agile combat employment processes and timelines to pack up, load, and reestablish wing facilities and command and control structures at newly assigned locations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristine Legate)
An HC-130J Combat King II is being unloaded during Exercise Bushwhacker 21-07 at Gila Bend, Arizona, on Oct. 6, 2021. For this exercise, Combat Kings provided transport and necessary supplies between main operating bases, forward operating bases, and contingency locations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristine Legate)
U.S. Air Force Airmen go over a preflight checklist during Exercise Bushwhacker 21-07 at Gila Bend, Arizona, Oct. 6, 2021. This exercise focused on broadening and refining skillsets DM Airmen are gaining from training outside of their career specialties to provide the wing the ability to rapidly deploy agile and self-sufficient forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristine Legate)
U.S. Air Force Airmen depart from an HC-130J Combat King II during Exercise Bushwhacker 21-07 at Gila Bend, Arizona, Oct. 6, 2021. This iteration of Bushwhacker focused on base operations and support, and a small element of DM’s Dynamic Wing participated in a simulated forward deployment to establish a short-term contingency location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristine Legate)
U.S. Air Force Airmen are settling into an HC-130J Combat King II during Exercise Bushwhacker 21-07 from a forward operating base at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Oct. 6, 2021. This iteration of Bushwhacker focused on base operations and support, and a small element of DM’s Dynamic Wing participated in a simulated forward deployment to Gila Bend, Arizona, established as a short-term contingency location. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristine Legate)
A U.S. Air Force Airman radios in an update from a forward operating base to Sunglow City during Exercise Bushwhacker 21-07 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Oct. 5, 2021. Bushwhacker exercises are intended to improve upon the Dynamic Wing concept, testing and enhancing DM’s multi-capable Airmen in establishing, sustaining, and defending the base with organic command and control. (U.S. Air Force by Staff Sgt. Kristine Legate)
U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and an HC-130J Combat King II along with U.S. Army CH-47 Chinooks from Ft. Carson, Colorado, are ready for simulated flight missions during Exercise Bushwhacker 21-07 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Oct. 4, 2021. Bushwhacker exercises are intended to improve upon the Dynamic Wing concept, testing and enhancing DM’s multi-capable Airmen in establishing, sustaining, and defending the base with organic command and control. (U.S. Air Force by Staff Sgt. Kristine Legate)

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