RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany – When military assets from land, air, sea, space and cyberspace converge to support one cohesive mission, the Department of Defense applies the term “Joint All-Domain Operations.” Synchronizing this kind of coordinated action between jets, tanks, artillery, ships and satellites is a complex and daunting task for any commander.
The difference between success and failure often comes down to how quickly a commander can receive the right information to make the correct decision.
As a member of the Joint Interface Control Cell (JICC) at U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa, Ramstein Air Base, Germany, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Colin Alexander knows how data is transmitted in a military environment. His team manages the tactical data links (TDLs) that enable the exchange of digital information for air component platforms in areas of operation for both U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command.
In many ways, the success of Joint All-Domain operations rests upon these TDLs.
“TDLs are the way military platforms exchange digital information,” says Alexander. “For example, jets can pass their position and status for their wingman and command and control team to see, saving multiple radio calls.”
Alexander is passionate about what he does, and he sees how TDLs streamline operations from the strategic to the tactical level. However, he hasn’t always dealt in the currency of warfighting data. After about 10 years as an Air Battle Manager on active duty, Alexander switched to an Air Force Reserve unit in Oklahoma while working as a Defense Department contractor. Eventually, he transferred to the Utah Air National Guard and, in 2020, joined the Michigan Air National Guard’s 110th Wing at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base.
Battle Creek is home to the 217th Air Operations Group, which has a rare mission to provide reserve-component augmentation for USAFE-AFAFRICA’s 603d Air Operations Center. The 603d AOC provides plans, directs and assesses operational level command and control of integrated air, space and cyber power in support of two combatant commands: USEUCOM and USAFRICOM.
USAFE-AFAFRICA’s area of responsibility is vast, covering three continents, more than 19 million square miles, and 104 countries.
When a shortfall was identified for his skill set at the 603d AOC, the Alexander family took a leap of faith. The next thing he knew, he was in Germany on a one-year tour. He recently extended for another year and would like to stay longer if given the opportunity.
“I am super proud of my family and want to publicly thank them for sticking with me as we traverse the world on this crazy adventure,” says Alexander.
As a member of the ANG supporting the active-duty force at the 603d AOC, Alexander represents the total force concept that provides critical continuity and support when operations surge. The frequent success of Total Force initiatives demonstrates the mission-critical nature of the relationship between the active duty and their aligned Air National Guard units.
“TFI can be beneficial to both sides,” Alexander says. “It provides needed experience to National Guard members, as well as the continuity and subject-matter expertise that the active-duty side needs.”
So far, Alexander’s leap of faith is paying off. The opportunity to refine JADC2 concepts at USAFE-AFAFRICA – a top priority for the command – has been rewarding beyond expectation.
“JADC2 is a capability that not only helps in the tactical fight, but it brings countries together through coordination and information sharing,” says Alexander. “I love teaching people about what we do and I take pride in the role our team plays in building relationships with our NATO allies and partners.”
One of the highlights of Alexander’s first year at USAFE-AFAFRICA was the opportunity to contribute to the EUCOM Advanced Battle Management System Onramp #4 demonstration in February. This was a milestone demonstration of technology developing in support of JADC2.
“I joined the Michigan ANG to get some AOC experience, and I am excited to see where this opportunity will take my career,” said Alexander. “Whatever happens, I believe in the fundamental philosophy of JADC2 – that our ability to manage and act on data is what will give us the edge in any future fight.”