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Agile Combat Employment: A Leaner, Meaner Force

By Senior Airman Rhett Isbell | 18th Wing Public Affairs | Feb. 24, 2020

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen from Kadena Air Base, Japan, executed a training exercise on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Feb. 21, 2020, in cooperation with Airmen from the 317th Airlift Wing from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and MCAS Futenma Marines to sharpen 18th Wing Airmen’s force generation capabilities by training in the Agile Combat Employment concept.

Team Kadena Airmen flew to MCAS Futenma with minimal manning and equipment to demonstrate their ability to land in an austere environment without an established support network and refuel, rearm, and relaunch F-15C Eagles within 12 hours.

“In order to provide a lean, agile, lethal force here we utilize ACE training to be able to turn operational- level movements into smaller, tactical level initiatives,” said Lt. Col. Brian Knauf, deputy director of the 18th Wing ACE agency. “We now have a capability to find a location outside of Kadena, create a force to go into that location, set up a base, do a forward area rearm and refuel and get back into the fight. We’re bringing all of our normal capabilities, but with a much smaller footprint.

Seven aircraft and over 50 Airmen demonstrated their ability to project airpower from remote locations in a constantly changing wartime environment. Executing the core of this operation were the Airmen, on land, who quick-turned the F-15C Eagles after arriving only a few hours prior. The implementation of this ACE concept allows aircraft to rearm and refuel to get back into the fight quickly and efficiently.

“It was great being able to fully test what we were capable of in regard to how quickly we could get the F-15s back out in the fight,” said Master Sgt. Michael Bell, 44th Aircraft Maintenance Unit production superintendent. “We went with minimal crew and cargo and were still able to accomplish the mission we were given.”

Swiftly transporting this efficiently-manned and -equipped team required the expertise of loadmasters knowledgeable in their career field and experienced in operating remotely. Happy to show their proficiency in both aspects, loadmasters from Dyess AFB, volunteered to take part in the exercise to showcase their ability to further the ACE mission.

“We were responsible for ensuring all of the cargo and people required for this mission were brought to and from Futenma as quickly and safely as possible,” said Staff Sgt. Jacob Snider, 40th Airlift Squadron instructor loadmaster. “The ACE concept is constantly evolving and exercises like this allow us to not only accomplish the mission, but improve it as well.”

With the aid of Snider and his team, Kadena Airmen were able to successfully accomplish the ACE mission within a single day. An operation that would typically take up to five or six days. Knauf finds himself excited to see the ACE concept further improve the capabilities of Kadena Air Base and the U.S. Air Force as a whole.

“I think we get a lot of good training out of it,” Knauf said. “I would like to see more scaled-down events like this in the future. We need to know how to pick up and move our forces if the situation requires because it’s always good to be less of a target.”

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