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Mobility Airmen enhance ACE, MCA capabilities during three-week OST

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise

Utah National Guard Soldiers from the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) board a C-130J Super Hercules at Provo Airport, Utah, March 12, 2021. The 61st Airlift Squadron conducted a high altitude, low opening airdrop over Utah as part of a three-week off-station pre-deployment training event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise

Senior Airman Dario Dominguez, 61st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, guides a truck out the back of a C-130J Super Hercules during a three-week capstone training event at Travis Air Force Base, California, March 10, 2021. This capstone training tested the ability to operate in austere environments with a minimal footprint. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise

Airman 1st Class Mitchell Harrison and Senior Airman Dario Dominguez, 61st Airlift Squadron loadmasters, drop a simulated sea rescue kit off the coast of Florida during a three-week capstone training event, March 17, 2021. This capstone helped build a baseline for C-130J agile combat employment operations and future warfighting capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise

Aircrew from the 61st Airlift Squadron conductc a containment delivery system bundle drop over Utah during a three-week capstone training event, March 13, 201. This capstone helped build a baseline for C-130J agile combat employment operations and future warfighting capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise

Airman 1st Class Shantique Goins, 61st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, conducts a pre-flight check during a three-week capstone training event at the Boise Airport, Idaho, March 13, 2021. This capstone training tested the ability to operate in austere environments with a minimal footprint. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise

Pilots from the 61st Airlift Squadron taxi down the runway at Provo Airport, Utah, during a three-week capstone training event, March 13, 2021. This capstone expanded the capabilities of distributed operations, agile combat employment, and multi-capable Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise

A pilot from the 61st Airlift Squadron conducts a pre-flight check during a three-week capstone training event at the Boise Airport, Idaho, March 13, 2021. This capstone training tested the ability to operate in austere environments with a minimal footprint. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise

Senior Airman Dario Dominguez, 61st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, searches for a simulated downed aircraft prior to dropping a sea rescue kit off the coast of Florida during a three-week capstone training event, March 17, 2021. This capstone helped build a baseline for C-130J agile combat employment operations and future warfighting capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise

A C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 61st Airlift Squadron sits on the runway at Provo Airport, Utah, during a three-week capstone training event, March 13, 2021. This capstone training tested the ability to operate in austere environments with a minimal footprint. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise
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Pilots from the 61st Airlift Squadron park a C-130J Super Hercules at Provo Airport, Utah during a three-week capstone training event, March 13, 2021. This capstone training tested the ability to operate in austere environments with a minimal footprint. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise
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1st Lt. Michael Chisena (left) and Capt. Riley Miller (right), 61st Airlift Squadron pilots, fly over Utah during week one of a three-week off-station training event March 12, 2021. This OST expanded the capabilities of distributed operations, agile combat employment, and multi-capable Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise
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Utah National Guard Soldiers from the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct a high altitude, low opening airdrop over Utah during a three-week capstone training event, March 12, 2021. This capstone helped build a baseline for C-130J agile combat employment operations and future warfighting capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise
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Capt. Riley Miller, 61st Airlift Squadron pilot, briefs Utah National Guard Soldiers from the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) prior to conducting a high altitude, low opening airdrop over Utah during a three-week capstone training event, March 12, 2021. This capstone helped build a baseline for C-130J agile combat employment operations and future warfighting capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise
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1st Lt. Michael Chisena (left) and Capt. Riley Miller (right), 61st Airlift Squadron pilots, fly over Utah during week one of a three-week off-station training event March 12, 2021. This OST helped build a baseline for C-130J agile combat employment operations and future warfighting capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise
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1st Lt. Michael Chisena, 61st Airlift Squadron pilot, flies over Utah during week one of a three-week off-station training event March 12, 2021. This OST expanded the capabilities of distributed operations, agile combat employment, and multi-capable Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

Airmen train together during 3 week exercise
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Master Sgt. Daniel Insurriaga, 61st Airlift Squadron ramp coordinator, guides in a C-130J Super Hercules at Michael Army Airfield, March 11, 2021. The 61st Airlift Squadron’s multi-state capstone training event tested the unit’s ability to provide agile combat airlift with a minimal footprint. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Aaron Irvin)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- The 61st Airlift Squadron recently completed a multi-week, off-station training (OST) event spanning across Boise, Idaho, Key West, Florida, and Wilmington, North Carolina, March 8-28.

Completing 106 sorties, 254 flying hours, and nearly 2,000 training events, the 61st AS, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron, and 19th Operations Support Squadron sought to tackle Agile Combat Employment, distributed operations, and the Multi-Capable Airmen (MCA) concept.

“As we continue to accelerate change, we have to think outside the box on how we train,” said Capt. Dmytro Pichkur, 61st AS pilot and OST mission commander. “This OST provided a venue to test how the C-130 fits into the picture of the future fight, while simultaneously reducing our overall footprint.”

In order to get after an ever-evolving ACE construct, the Air Force aims to challenge Airmen to step out of their comfort zones and train them on tasks not defined by their Air Force Specialty Codes.

While in Boise, the 61st AS got their first look at MCA training. Integrating with the 821st Contingency Response Squadron at Travis AFB, California, pilots, loadmasters and maintainers were trained on how to set up a barebones forward operating base with enough infrastructure to spend a few nights at an austere location.

Throughout the remainder of the week, aircrews focused on mountain low-level training while operating out of high-altitude airfields. To close out the first week, the 61st AS integrated with Soldiers from the 19th Special Forces Group, conducting high-altitude low open and static-line personnel drops, and mass container delivery system airdrops into simulated contested environments.

In week two, which took place in Key West, Florida, the aircrew trained on combat search and rescue operations, in which a two-ship of C-130Js scanned the water for a simulated downed aircraft and dropped a sea rescue kit to the downed crew.

“The search and rescue operations enabled us to train something we aren’t able to organically replicate at home station,” Pichkur said. “Conducting this in a distributed environment, operating out of a hangar, we solidified our ability to execute distributed operations and utilize the full capabilities of all our crews within a short notification window.”

While operating out of the distributed environment, the 61st AS used this time to ensure nearly 50 Airmen received MCA training and qualifications in both tent set-up and forklift operations.

“We can’t always expect to have an established base to operate out of,” Pichkur said. “We have to remain self-sufficient without the entire support system we are used to having, while also being able to move quickly between locations, whether it’s to degrade the enemies capability to target our location or to remain agile in combat,.”

In order to improve agility, the Green Hornets aim to minimize the footprint and establish cross-communication between AFSCs, which instills a better understanding of the roles all Airmen play in mission success.

“By our pilots and loadmasters receiving forklift training, we are able to bring a forklift with us to any location around the world and upload and download cargo without outside support,” said Master Sgt. Roy Hill, 61st AS loadmaster. “I believe every loadmaster should receive this training as it adds a certain flexibility that we need in order to stay light-footed and ready.”

To close out the capstone event, the 61st AS joined exercise Razor Talon, hosted by the 4th Fighter Wing out of Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina. Razor Talon is a quarterly ACE and large-force composite training exercise that allows the Air Force to train in a fully-developed threat scenario environment with joint and combined warfighters across multiple domains. 

Building up to the final week, the 61st AS developed and tested new techniques for briefing and debriefing crews on the road with minimal support.

“This was the first time we utilized electronic means to brief the aircrew with our mission planning cell at a separate location,” Pichkur said. “This really set us up for the Razor Talon exercise because our MPC was geographically separated at Seymour Johnson AFB while we were operating out of Wilmington International Airport.”

As more of a traditional ACE exercise, the four C-130J’s and their aircrew focused primarily on supporting the warfighters while honing skills in a distributed operations environment.

“Our participation included fighting our way into a contested location and providing integrated combat turns by transporting an R-11 fuel truck and the required maintenance personnel, and conducting a wet-wing defuel onto an F-15E Strike Eagle,” Pichkur said.

Upon completion, this OST validated lessons learned from previous ACE exercises while also demonstrating what it looks like for a 4-Ship Lite of C-130s and supporting personnel to operate for three weeks straight, out of multiple locations.

“We continue to aggressively expand our agile combat airlift capabilities by integrating with Combat Air Forces and Joint partners in very dynamic and fluid training exercises,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Miller, 61st AS commander. “Echoing Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr.'s sentiment of ‘good enough today will fail tomorrow,’ we must continue to push the limits and showcase what we as Mobility Airmen bring to the fight.” 

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