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NEWS | April 15, 2024

Tinian FOS serves as power projection platform during Exercise Agile Reaper 24-1

By Tech. Sgt. Curt Beach, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson

The remote island of Tinian, located in the western Pacific Ocean, represents a vital chapter in military and world history. The island once was home to the U.S. military’s largest B-29 Superfortress fleet, which launched the two bombers carrying the atomic bombs “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” that brought an end to World War II in 1945. Today, the U.S. Air Force is employing the location for the next generation of air power projection.

The 3rd Air Expeditionary Wing out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, is conducting Exercise Agile Reaper 24-1, utilizing a hub-and-spoke concept of operations, with an operations center, or hub, located at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and five disaggregated locations serving as the spokes, collectively projecting power across the Indo-Pacific Region.

One of the spokes is an austere environment next to Tinian International Airport, and while it began as a baren patch of grass, in less than 24 hours, a few dozen Airmen stood up and are now operating it as a fully mission-capable forward operating site comprised of approximately 100 Airmen with all the necessary military support functions to service and launch military aircraft, namely JBER’s F-22 Raptors from the 90th Fighter Squadron.

“Operating from Tinian offers great training for all of us,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Clayton Cruickshank, Tinian spoke commander and F-22 Raptor pilot. “We’re developing the skills that will be required to operate from austere locations in the future, and we’re developing our junior leaders so they can step into roles that have recently been held by higher ranking and more experienced people. Everything we learn here should inform how we can prepare for future conflicts and how we will need to fight in this environment.”

One of the first Airmen on site was U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Taylor Howe, an explosive ordnance disposal flight commander from the 673d Civil Engineer Group. Stepping into a new role as the Tinian camp “mayor,” Howe directed the integration of Airmen from all support functions in order to build the base, to include on-boarding personnel and cargo, cross-flow of information with the hub, constructing shelters, and providing overall wellness support of the deployed forces, such as food, water, safety, and medical.

The expeditious build-up of the Tinian site was made possible through the employment of the Air Force concept of Mission-Ready Airmen. MRA optimizes wartime operational mission generation through Airmen working side-by-side with Airmen outside their Air Force Specialty Code and applying those core skills when needed, in order to make the mission happen. In a wartime environment, ensuring redundancies with Airmen understanding and being able to act outside their core specialty will increase the survivability of forces in the Pacific.

Serving in another position vital to success was U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Beau Burton, a contracting officer from the 673d Contracting Squadron, who was one of the first Airmen on ground and tackled fulfilling key contracts with local vendors for support of the team, such as acquisition of shelter for personnel, transportation, water, fuel, safety equipment, and other necessary requirements to ensure the operational capability of the spoke location.

“Standing up this base takes coordination from everybody,” Burton said. “It takes being ready and willing to ‘dual hat’ or ‘triple hat’ roles and responsibilities. Everyone here owns a piece or multiple pieces of the puzzle, and each member being proactive and motivated allows for the puzzle pieces to come together and everything to fall into place so the mission can get rolling.”

AR 24-1 acts as an Air Force Force Generation (AFFORGEN) certifying training event for the 3rd AEW, a requirement for the deployment of forces. AFFORGEN is an evolving concept that allows the Air Force to ensure force presentation and force generation models are aligned to the way the service intends to operate in the future high-end fight.

The exercise facilitates better readiness and performance in the high-end fight and preserves forces as the Air Force moves away from the hardened and entrenched physical and logistical structures of the past toward a more sustainable model where force packages are light and lean in personnel and cargo requirements.

“‘Spoking out’ is a much more intense environment than home station, both situationally and the essential aspect of maintaining mutually beneficial local partnerships, while keeping forces healthy and motivated,” Howe said. “Our overall mission here is to survive and operate, and if needed, we will engage, fight and win in order to preserve the survivability of our forces and defend the homeland.”