OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --
The 9th Reconnaissance Wing answers the call to accelerate change or lose by employing Agile Combat Employment (ACE) capabilities in support of Dragon Flag EAST, March 27 - April 7, 2023 at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
The exercise created an opportunity for the 9th RW to reposition and join forces with the 55th Wing at Offutt, simulating combat operation challenges experienced overseas.
An Advanced Operational Node (ADVON) team arrived at Offutt from Beale to establish the Air Force Crisis Action Team (AFCAT) Continuity of Operations (COOP) in preparation for the exercise.
“ACE is being able to pick up everything that you have for normal ops, the bare minimum, and be able to take it somewhere else and operate out of a location that you otherwise would not be at,” said one 9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron airframe and powerplant general technician. “So it is your flexibility to be anywhere at any point of time.”
The 9th RW and 55th Wing also employ Multi-Capable Airmen (MCA) during Dragon Flag EAST to advance cross-utilization and independence of various career fields.
“Multi-Capable Airmen is the ability to take an individual with a certain set of skills, or certain AFSC, and utilize them in another AFSC,” said the 9th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. “What we are doing is taking individuals that are avionics by trade and then teaching them how to fuel an aircraft, which is usually a task done by a crew chief.”
MCA supports ACE by allowing for minimization of manpower whilst maintaining proper operations.
“We are able to take a smaller footprint,” said the 9th AMU OIC. “Whenever we can shrink up anybody, any team or any asset to make it smaller, we can become more efficient.”
Airmen accomplish MCA by learning skills from other Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs) and employing them as needed. Maintenance Airmen may be trained to power fuel pumps for the aircraft, generally a logistics function.
“I work in electrical and environmental systems, but I can also act as a pogo supervisor to launch and recover the jet,” said a 9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron electrical and environmental systems craftsman. “For this exercise, I drove and supervised the pogo team to recover the jet. Later on in the week, I serviced the aircraft with liquid oxygen, which is a part of my job qualifications, and if needed, I can do things like refuel or conduct inlet and exhaust inspections because I am engine run qualified.”
Several 9th RW Airmen wear multiple hats during Dragon Flag EAST, which not only executes the concept of Multi-Capable Airmen but also further strengthens esprit de corps within the exercise team.
“When we go TDY like this, everyone kind of works as one another, working as one unit instead of having your individual role, and then seeing the bigger picture,” said one 9th AMXS airframe and powerplant general technician. “I think that is one of the biggest things with MCA; it is just integration with everybody and losing that concept of ‘that’s not my job, it’s someone else’s issue’ and putting your hands in more things.”
As the exercise continues, the 9th RW and 55th Wing Airmen will further integrate to employ Lead Wing concepts like MCA and ACE while simultaneously executing collaborative Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations to meet combatant commanders’ objectives.