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Testing strengths: 19th AW demonstrates distributed operations

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Grace Nichols
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 19th Airlift Wing flew to Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, Nov. 15 through 17, 2019, to demonstrate distributed operations as a part of ROCKI 20-01, the wing’s semiannual full spectrum readiness exercise.

The scenario tested the 19th AW’s ability to successfully stand up and sustain dispersed airlift operations using a team of 30 Airmen and two C-130J Super Hercules to conduct follow-on missions in a comm-degraded environment.

“I have confidence in our ability to go out and do the mission, which is projecting and sustaining agile combat airlift,” said Maj. Matthew Coffey, 61st Airlift Squadron assistant director of operations and mission commander of the ROCKI 20-01 dispersed basing exercise. “What we have to do for this exercise is rapidly set up an airlift hub and be able to sustain it. That means keeping people fed, lodged and up to date on the intelligence in the theatre so they can go execute that mission to the highest level possible.”

The operation tested the ability of combat airlift to provide rapid global mobility through the establishment and resupply of a distributed network of bare bases within a highly contested theater of operations.

This emerging concept added to the complexity of the ROCKI exercise and provided additional training opportunities for the 19th AW to validate wing readiness and prepare Airmen for potential operational requirements to overcome potential adversary’s tactics.

“We can expect that against a near-peer adversary; their first actions will be to target our main centers of gravity and points of vulnerability,” Coffey said. “We have to get ahead of their thinking and make sure that if they attack, we can disperse our assets to other locations so we’re not an easy target.”

Throughout this distributed operations mission, Airmen lived in tents, slept in sleeping bags, had minimal access to hygiene facilities and ate Meals-Ready-to-Eat for sustenance. This simulated the austere airfield environment expected in a dispersed basing scenario.

The team was tasked with performing a set number of sorties each day to neighboring bases, simulating supporting efforts during conflict, including on-loading and off-loading equipment and personnel.

The mission commander and his team were provided mission type order and then given freedom to decide how to execute.  This tested the ability to operate independently, from intermediate bases, supporting contingency operations without reach-back communications.

“This scenario is focused on giving the mission commander the flexibility to execute commander’s intent without being provided specific instructions,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jared Jones, 19th AW Inspector General deputy director of inspections.  “Exercises like this ROCKI provide our Airmen challenges and obstacles to overcome within a controlled environment, building the technical competencies and habits of thought necessary to defeat a thinking opponent.”