HORSHAM, Pa. – The 111th Operations Group joined forces with three other wings for a multifaceted training exercise that included Tactical Air Control Party specialists, a C-17 Globemaster III and MQ-9 Reaper at Fort Indiantown Gap Aug. 24.
Airmen from the 111th OG, TACP specialists from the 148th Air Support Operations Squadron, and members of the 305th Air Mobility Wing and its associate reserve unit, the 514th Air Mobility Wing, participated in a two-part joint exercise. It included integrating the MQ-9 Reaper’s ability to support ground troops and coordinate support for a C-17 Globemaster III flying over simulated hostile territory at Bollen Range.
“We wanted to conduct training in real-time within a dynamic real-world environment,” said Pennsylvania Air National Guard Lt. Col. Steven F. Irwin, director of operations for the 103rd Attack Squadron. “We also wanted to provide support for the 148th ASOS and the 732nd Airlift Squadron so they can accomplish their desired learning objectives.”
In scenario one, members of the 148th ASOS, a subordinate unit of the 193rd Special Operations Wing in Middletown, Pennsylvania, conducted ground operations that simulated capturing an enemy stronghold in hostile territory. The 111th OG’s MQ-9 Reaper provided intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, armed overwatch and close air support.
“Our training was great and we met our desired learning objectives,” said PAANG Capt. Tyler J. Trocano, TACP officer, Joint Terminal Attack Controller, 148th ASOS. “Most of our TACPs during the training evolution had not controlled a live MQ-9 before.”
In scenario two, a C-17 Globemaster III from the 305th Air Mobility Wing and its associate reserve unit, the 514th Air Mobility Wing, based at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, flew a resupply mission into a simulated hostile location while responding to surface to air missiles fired by an enemy. Two 111th OG personnel helped integrate MQ-9 support by providing real-time intelligence updates and armed overwatch.
“This is the first time we have trained with the 148th ASOS,” said Irwin. “Typically, our training scenarios are shorter and less dynamic. This mission allowed us to work together for nearly two hours, better emulating a more real-world mission.
“This is also the first time we provided overwatch for a C-17 simulated insertion to a hostile environment,” he said. “It is also the first time we had a pilot and sensor on a C-17.”
Irwin said his wingmen experienced a complete tactical sortie that included air refueling, low-level threat avoidance, knowledge of the C-17’s capabilities and the workload of its aircrew in a tactical environment. The 111th OG participants shared their MQ-9 expertise.
Irwin thanked all those involved and said the plan was to train more at Bollen Range, “integrating with other assets, such as A-10s and F-16s,” to ensure Airmen in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve remain ready for active-duty service.
“It should not be forgotten that the 111th OG and the 148th ASOS are ANG units with drill status Guardsmen,” said Irwin. “And, the 732nd AS is an Air Force Reserve Command unit with traditional reservists participating. Many members taking part in this training were true Citizen-Airmen, some on summer break, and others took days off from civilian jobs. We are not here every day to train or execute our missions, but we are expected to be ready any day we are called upon. Opportunities like this go a long way to making that a reality.”