EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- In late April, 2017, U.S. Navy Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, urged to the House Armed Services Committee that the most viable threats to the security of the United States and its allies exist within the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
Eielson is not immune to those threats. In fact, Eielson understands its strategic proximity and defines its mission and purpose with the specific intent of confronting those very threats.
Internalizing this strategic perspective has meant continuous preparations to support and defend its nation’s security, and that of its allies by conducting exercises that ensure all Airmen are ready to “fight tonight”; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ motto of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance.
From Jan. 22 to 26, Eielson conducted Arctic Gold 18-4; an Operational Readiness Exercise designed to give all 354th Fighter Wing personnel the opportunity to execute mission-essential tasks together in a simulated high-threat environment.
Consisting of two distinct phases, Phase I tested all 354 FW Airmen’s capabilities to conduct events related to the deployment operations process, which included preparing forces for combat, deploying Airmen in support of global operations, successfully receiving tasked personnel and equipment, and preparation and response procedures for a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosives attack.
Each of these training events were critical to developing a mindset across Eielson that enhanced its mission promise of enabling the staging of forces to promote U.S. interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region
“One of Eielson’s primary missions is to support threat-response efforts in the Pacific theatre with personnel and equipment at any time, or any place,” said Maj. Daniel Wynn, the 354th FW deputy Inspector General. “During [Phase I] of the exercise, we were able to effectively test our ability to do just that.”
In Phase II of AG 18-4, Airmen demonstrated their ability to survive and operate in a high-threat environment. In this phase, personnel were able to practice and enhance their basic warfighting skills while continuing to support primary missions in a simulated high-threat and kinetic environment.
“[Phase II] is our opportunity to evaluate the readiness and ability to operate in a contested environment,” said Wynn. “The difference between this exercise and previous exercises we’ve conducted is that every active duty military personnel, from the [installation] commander down, was evaluated on that capability.”
More than reaffirming the readiness of its forces for any foreseeable threat, Eielson also used AG 18-4 as vital step in preparing the installation for the arrival of its combat fighter squadrons set to begin in early 2020. This is a strategic operational advancement that will posture Eielson as the Air Force’s most forward-deployed, permanent F-35 base.
“Arctic Gold was a crucial [ORE] for evaluating a wide range of threat and regional readiness standards,” said Col. Chad BonDurant, 354th Mission Support Group commander. “Our Airmen captivated the core of our mission and demonstrated the capability to sustain a heightened state of operational readiness that will likely become necessary to handle the threats inherent to our area of operations.”
The skills demonstrated and enhanced during this ORE bring promise that the operational readiness of Eielson is unwavering to any threat. It is through continual exercises like Arctic Gold that reinstate to our allies, and just the same our adversaries, that the posture of Eielson is more capable and lethal than ever to quickly and effectively respond to any security threat in the region.