The Connecticut Air National Guard's 103rd Airlift Wing displayed its ability to quickly deploy in the event of a short-notice wartime tasking during a large-scale readiness exercise March 2-5, 2020.
The scenario involved airmen from around the base and tasked members from the 103rd Maintenance Group to generate a C-130H Hercules aircraft while wearing mission oriented protective posture (MOPP) gear, and an aircrew from the 118th Airlift Squadron to fly a mission while wearing aircrew eye and respiratory protective system (AERPS) equipment.
The exercise marked the midpoint of a five-year strategic plan initiated in 2018 by the U.S. Air Force’s introduction of full spectrum readiness.
“This tests our ability to get out the door fast and sustain in more challenging environments,” said Lt. Col. Wendy Farnsworth, 103rd Airlift Wing Inspector General. “After two years of training and building exercises, we’re at our first real milestone to be measured by Air Mobility Command on how ready our unit is to deploy and sustain in possible chemical environments.”
In building the exercise, Farnsworth and the wing inspection team, comprised of functional experts in various career fields, design an objective that tests mission essential tasks in these areas. If a career field’s readiness standards include operating in a degraded environment, the exercise scenario gives them a way to test that capability. The inspection team from Air Mobility Command then evaluates how Farnsworth’s team builds and grades the exercise against these readiness requirements.
“Our office based the simulated location, amount of personnel and equipment tasked to match a realistic situation, but still stress that we’re testing something,” said Farnsworth. “We actually build a lot of the desired evaluation objectives based on our commander’s intent for what he considers to be ready while using our actual reporting information as a foundation,” said Farnsworth.
The generation phase of the exercise implements the installation deployment plan and tests both the personnel and cargo deployment functions’ capability to efficiently deploy airmen and necessary cargo. The employment and sustainment phase shows the unit’s ability to perform their tasks in MOPP gear in the degraded environment.
“We just got back from a deployment, so we know we can perform our tactical airlift mission all day,” said Col. Roy Walton, 103rd Airlift Wing vice wing commander. “This adds the contested environment to the scenario and the exercise gives us the opportunity to show we can do that.”
This exercise also gives the wing an opportunity to build on its capabilities, said Walton.
“To me there is nothing wrong with finding things wrong—there are a lot of people that have never done this sort of exercise before,” said Walton. “So our wing inspection team will document everything, we’ll get better, and we’ll get to a point where this will be just normal operations.”
“We have about 50 subject matter experts that I get to work with to pull everything together,” said Farnsworth. “I couldn’t be happier to be in this position going through this inspection with the team that I have.”