EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The 354th Fighter Wing took a significant step towards implementing the Agile Combat Employment concept. As part of this initiative, the base introduced its first Wing-led iteration of the Multi-capable Airmen (MCA) Rodeo, an exercise designed to evaluate combat effectiveness. MCA refers to a new type of training where Airmen are instructed to perform tasks outside their primary Air Force Specialty.
These personnel work together as a cross-functional team to provide combat support to aviation force elements conducting dispersed and dynamic operations. They are capable of operating independently to accomplish mission objectives while minimizing risk.
The simulation was designed to set up a "bare bones" spoke. This simulates a realistic scenario where Airmen could find themselves at a location with no more support than just a runway and an empty concrete pad. Their task was to take that empty pad and turn it into an F-35 operating location. The concept is essential because it focuses on maximizing the team available when it's difficult to get additional resources into a spoke location. Additionally, it ensures that mission objectives can still be achieved even if someone is lost in a wartime situation.
The initial team chosen by Eielson Air Force Base consisted of Airmen from 25 different specialties within the Wing. These Airmen were chosen based on their skill sets and trades while also keeping in mind Airmen who will remain stationed at the base for an extended period, allowing them to fully maximize their training before their Permanent Change of Station window arrives.
“We’re not creating Jacks of all trades or masters of none,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Bupp, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Group, F-35 Lightning II Aerospace Powerplant General, Flight Chief. “We are giving everyone the specific skill-set needed to be a pivotal piece of the puzzle when we need to spoke out in locations that have very little to no support.”
Airmen with different areas of expertise, such as maintainers, weapons specialists, and communication experts were trained to work together, often performing tasks outside their typical Air Force Specialty. Tasks included constructing structures, forklift familiarization, and working alongside colleagues from other AFSCs whom they had not worked with before. Although some Airmen had no prior experience in certain tasks, they were actively engaged in learning and successfully collaborating, producing a harmonious and efficient team effort, much like a commercial operation.
“Right now, MCA is not a Special Experience Identifier,” said Maj. Jack “Rage” Johnston, 354 Fighter Wing ACE Director. “However, Airmen are training every day to prepare to fight in the Pacific Area of Responsibility. This environment demands a more multi-capable Airman, and the MCA Rodeo helped prepare these Airmen for that environment.”
The introduction of Multi-capable Airmen and the Agile Combat Employment concept at Eielson Air Force Base is a clear demonstration of the Air Force's commitment to implementing General Brown's "Accelerate Change or Lose" initiative. By training Airmen to perform tasks outside their primary Air Force Specialty and creating cross-functional teams capable of operating independently, the Air Force is creating a more agile and adaptable force, one that can quickly respond to evolving threats and challenges.
“We hope this event lays the foundation for future events,” said Rage. “By stepping out of their comfort zone, airmen will inherently become more multi-capable and therefore more resilient in the future fight.”