AGILE FLAG 21-2: Airpower from anywhere

Air Force Airmen and Space Force Guardians from across the country recently came together to participate in Air Combat Command‘s Agile Flag 21-2 experiment at Naval Outlying Landing Field Choctaw, April 26 – May 7.

The exercise, aimed at testing a host unit’s mission generation, command and control, and base operating support-integrator elements, aimed to prepare warfighters from multiple installations and major commands for what they may encounter in a deployed setting.

“Successful operations and combat support in a contested environment demand maximum delegation, trust, and empowerment of Airmen before conflict starts,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. “We must empower Airmen at all levels, delegating to the lowest capable and competent level possible.”

As the lead wing, the 4th Fighter Wing, assigned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, tested its ability to provide operations support and deliver combat effects in a deployed environment from its simulated home base at Tyndall AFB, while also supporting two additional locations, like the forward operating base constructed at NOLF Choctaw.

The planning for NOLF Choctaw aligned capabilities from different units under a single commander to deliver Agile Combat Employment using the Air Base Squadron concept of operations.

“The Air Force, and specifically ACC, needs to refine and clearly articulate expectations for the role of a lead wing as an instrument of air power in support of strategic national objectives,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Frasch, ACC Operations Dynamic Force Employment chief.

Nearly 200 personnel from five ACC bases worked together, as an ABS, to support simulated joint force air component commander missions with combat and mobility aircraft.

“It [Agile Combat Employment] allows a pick-up-and-move capability that provides combatant commanders with task-organized, trained, prepared and ready forces to deploy and immediately generate combat power from positions of advantage on a very short timeline,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Kabel, ACC/A35 Agility, Force Generation and SAP Integration chief.

Maintainers from Seymour Johnson AFB’s 4th Maintenance Group and the 27th Fighter Squadron from the 1st Fighter Wing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, worked alongside Airmen from the 4th Logistics Readiness Squadron to receive, refuel and rearm aircraft participating in the experiment.

“This experiment mimics a deployed environment,” said Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Newson, 336th Air Maintenance Unit chief. “My team knows how to turn jets all day. [But] having a FOB (forward operating base) like this presents the most realistic training environment. It’s truly testing our ability to work and win in any environment.”

Participating support personnel from Seymour Johnson AFB’s 4th Civil Engineering and 4th Force Support Squadrons, also tested their combat capabilities by constructing deployed FOB staging facilities at NOLF Choctaw for contingency operations over a three-day period.

“It was found in earlier versions that there had to be a robust support aspect to the exercise to ensure mission success and the units came together under the ABS and delivered efficient and flexible support to a variety of air combat capabilities,” said 1st Lt. Brett Gaumond, 4th CES.

Defenders from the 322nd Base Defense Squadron at Moody AFB, Georgia also joined in by providing perimeter security and asset defense for aircraft to telecommunications Airmen from the 51st Combat Communications Squadron, Robins AFB, Georgia.

“[This experiment] is larger than anything that we’ve done in the past, logistically and asset-wise,” Gaumond said.

Airmen and Guardians, who slept in tents, worked long hours in wet or dirty conditions, dealt with heat, humidity and insects while eating Meals-Ready-to-Eat for almost a week agreed the scope and scale of Agile Flag 21-2 tested their readiness and lethality in new ways while also preparing them for future contingency operations.

“Any time we have the opportunity to use a dedicated venue to address and experiment with both force presentation and agile combat employment concepts and tactics, techniques and procedure development, it’s a victory for our Air Force,” Frasch said.

Airmen use laptops in a makeshift forward operating base during the Agile Flag 21-2 exercise at Naval Outlying Landing Field Choctaw, Fla., May 3, 2021. Air Combat Command developed the Agile Flag 21-2 experiment to create a lead wing, aligning squadrons from different locations under a single commander, enhancing their readiness as a team before deploying into a contested environment.

Airmen use laptops in a makeshift forward operating base during the Agile Flag 21-2 exercise at Naval Outlying Landing Field Choctaw, Fla., May 3, 2021. Air Combat Command developed the Agile Flag 21-2 experiment to create a lead wing, aligning squadrons from different locations under a single commander, enhancing their readiness as a team before deploying into a contested environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sarah Dowe)

A military working dog attached to the 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. waits with his handler during the Agile Flag 21-2 exercise at Naval Outlying Landing Field Choctaw, Fla., May 3, 2021. Air Combat Command developed the experiment to create a lead wing, aligning squadrons from different locations under a single commander, enhancing their readiness as a team before deploying into a contested environment.

A military working dog attached to the 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. waits with his handler during the Agile Flag 21-2 exercise at Naval Outlying Landing Field Choctaw, Fla., May 3, 2021. Air Combat Command developed the experiment to create a lead wing, aligning squadrons from different locations under a single commander, enhancing their readiness as a team before deploying into a contested environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sarah Dowe)

Members of the 822nd Base Defense Group, Moody Air Force Base, Ga., perform a shift change during exercise Agile Flag 21-2 at Naval Outlying Landing Field Choctaw, Fla., May 3, 2021. The primary mission of the 822nd BDS is training to deploy to different theaters.

Members of the 822nd Base Defense Group, Moody Air Force Base, Ga., perform a shift change during exercise Agile Flag 21-2 at Naval Outlying Landing Field Choctaw, Fla., May 3, 2021. The primary mission of the 822nd BDS is training to deploy to different theaters. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sarah Dowe)

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