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NEWS | April 17, 2023

Alaska Air Guard Demonstrates ACE Readiness

By Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey, 168th Wing Public Affairs

VOLK FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Wis. – Multiple teams from the Alaska National Guard’s 168th Wing demonstrated the Air Force’s priority of Agile Combat Employment during a flyaway readiness exercise April 1-7.

The ACE concept utilizes multicapable Airmen to maintain, refuel and recover aircraft and ensure they are ready to deploy rapidly. The 168th Wing employed multicapable Airmen as part of its KC-135 Stratotanker operations, increasing survivability while generating combat air power.

“This exercise allowed us to practice several of the conceptual methods in which we may be asked to deploy and fight in the future,” said Lt. Col. Matthew McClurg, 168th Aircraft Maintenance commander. “We were able to cross-utilize AFSCs, particularly in maintenance, to broaden our capabilities with fewer people and with a smaller footprint toward the aircraft sortie generation effort.”

Four KC-135 Stratotankers from the Alaska Air National Guard 168th Wing and one C-17 Globemaster from Alaska’s 176th Wing departed Eielson Air Force Base Alaska with just over 100 Airmen and minimal equipment needed to conduct air refueling in an austere environment.

The 168th Wing set up operations at Volk Field, Wisconsin, coordinating hangar and ramp space to simulate the challenges of an austere environment. The team had to become familiar with the installation and the limited resources available.

As operations were underway, multicapable Airmen launched, recovered, refueled and relaunched the tankers, rapidly turning them with multiple sorties to meet up and refuel fighters.

“Both Staff Sgt. Kalib Dunlap from the R&R shop and Tech. Sgt. Kara Goodness-Tisland from the inspection shop were crew chiefs out on the line for this exercise,” said Tech Sgt. Cody Albert. “They are focused primarily on inspections and systems of the aircraft when at home station. They were both incredible while off-station. Kara and Kalib have both been deployed before, but the tempo of accomplishing this exercise was at a whole new level. Without them, we wouldn’t have been as successful as we were.”

Multiple refueling operations were accomplished from locations across the United States, tied back to Volk and the home station in Alaska.

Participants faced challenges for realistic situations units would face in future conflicts, such as communications and equipment issues while operating out of airfields with limited or no ground support. 

Aircrews worked with maintenance and fuel teams to conduct hot pit refueling — refueling immediately after landing, with engines running, to reduce turnaround times and generate more combat air power. 

Upon arriving at Volk Field, the teams quickly set up operations with limited personnel to sustain operations.

“For maintenance teams, the MCA program enables more efficient operations while operating on the road, away from home station,” said Master Sgt. David Fant, 168th Wing crew chief. “The ability to step outside of our primary AFSC, learn more about the aircraft, and correctly identify and troubleshoot maintenance issues drastically reduces aircraft downtime by reducing our reliance on sending maintenance recovery teams out to recover aircraft.”

Maintenance back shop Airmen took to the flight line generating aircraft to send off for refueling. Communications Airmen conducted cybersecurity.

Civil engineering crews set up water purification operations to produce potable drinking water in an austere environment.

The Agile Combat Employment exercise was built on MCA training at the home station. The austere unfamiliar environment expanded opportunities for Airmen to train and operate across each other’s career fields, ensuring operational success.

The 168th Wing’s primary mission is to provide KC-135 aircraft ready immediately for aerial refueling worldwide to support NORAD’s air sovereignty mission. 



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