MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - The Indiana Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing is conducting Guardian Blitz, a training exercise with approximately 180 Airmen and 10 A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft, in Florida and Georgia Jan. 23-Feb. 4.
The 122nd FW performed Guardian Blitz with proactive airpower maneuvers called Agile Combat Employment. The main force is located at MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa, Florida, and a smaller, contingency force is at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia.
“We have to adapt how we fight future wars,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kyle D. Hoopingarner, 122nd FW command chief. “ACE is a big piece of that for us. It allows us to forward deploy our aircraft, disperse into different locations and have smaller footprints of lethal fighting aircraft with more targets for the enemy to have to hit.”
ACE requires multi-capable Airmen trained to support mission generation, command and control, and base operating support in contested environments. To meet the changing threat, the 122nd FW is training cross-functional Airmen to be ready for wartime tasks at a moment’s notice.
“You are taking a small footprint of Blacksnakes to a location, and you can’t afford to take people from every shop, from every specialty,” said Hoopingarner. “Some of them need to be able to cross over and learn about another shop’s job so that they can do their primary job and they can help out with a secondary job as well. The more multi-capable Airmen we have, the more effective we will be implementing the ACE concept. ACE drives the need for MCAs. We have done a great job of leaning forward for the fight and teaching our Airmen to do more.”
One of the MCA teams executing Guardian Blitz at Moody Air Force Base represented eight Air Force specialty codes. The team members cross-trained each other on various Air Force skills.
“It is building camaraderie. It is building better communication between shops,” said Tech. Sgt. Jack Glad, aircraft turn supervisor working at the Moody Air Force Base contingency location. “We are able to be faster, better at everything we are doing.”
The 122nd FW MCA teams are cross-functional, with highly trained Airmen using streamlined tactics to generate combat airpower and conduct missions and logistics in an austere environment.
“We are faster and more efficient,” said Glad. “Our job is to make sure we get a code one aircraft back in the air fully loaded, and we are doing it in half the time.”
Training to fight with MCA during Guardian Blitz enables the 122nd FW to fight from a position of advantage while complicating the adversary’s attack strategies in a modern, contested environment.
“In the Guard, we deal with people that have such great talent,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jonathon Caughlan, 122nd FW first sergeant. “I think that it is a fantastic opportunity to operate with autonomy and really thrive with a small team of professionals that are charged with doing the work that is traditionally done with so many more people.”