ALPENA, Mich. -- In an effort to become the lightest, leanest, and most agile combat-effective force possible, the 621st Contingency Response Wing’s Contingency Location Team changes the way the Air Force looks at Agile Combat Employment.
Throughout Exercise Mobility Guardian 2021, this highly-specialized team provided critical joint all-domain command and control support as well as security to simulated austere airfields.
“Mobility Guardian ‘21 is designed to push the boundaries of what the Air Force traditionally does in conducting operations,” said Lt. Col. Dan Richardson, 821st Contingency Response Support Squadron operations manager. “As we recognize that the tactics, techniques and procedures we have previously trained on will not work against a peer or near-peer adversary – we have to figure out different ways of doing business, ensuring we don’t lose a high-end fight.”
The CLT is custom-designed to roll out the back of a C-130J Super Hercules with everything needed to operate for a few days, while gaining command and control of an airfield to support the Joint Force with a minimal footprint.
The 12-person, multi-capable squad comprises a loadmaster, command post controller, five security forces members, an aerial porter, a crew chief, an airfield manager, an independent duty medical technician and one communications specialist.
“My team is a true jack-of-all-trades,” said Master Sgt. Lee Boston, 621st CRW CLT lead. “The only way this team can be successful is with a multi-capable, cross-utilized effort.”
The experimental team is paving the way for AMC’s vision of a multi-capable force to get after ACE, Boston explained.
“During this exercise, we’re taking a team that is already multi-capable and cranking that up even more,” he said. “We’re also providing that highly contested environment force. With the proper guidance and direction, we can continue down this path and be successful.”
Although the CLT has been training together for a year and a half, MG21 served as the first opposing force exercise in which the team had to take command and control of an airfield.
“Being able to employ ourselves in these large movements really brought the team together,” Boston said. “Also, as technology moves farther along into the digital age, they learned they can rely on that in the future to bolster the team's capabilities.”
Partnering with Immersive Wisdom, a virtual reality software platform, as well as Digital Force Technologies, they were able to push real-time video feedback to the tactical operations center to get eyes and ears over the big picture. They also leveraged real-time sensor feeds from a Ghost Robotics Vision 60 robot dog to enhance their situational awareness. This technology expands upon overall capabilities of airfield control while becoming a force multiplier for teams in the future.
“My team is mission agnostic,” Boston said. “So not only can we facilitate fighter integrated combat turns, but we can also support helicopters, rearming, refueling, casualty evacuation, aircraft maintenance, or even huge mobility movements.”
In the specific airfield scenario during MG21, an AF special tactics team conducted an airfield seizure bringing in an aircraft with the CLT and handed over control of the airfield.
Once the CLT had control, they received a C-130J Super Hercules and four A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and conducted an Integrated Combat Turn. The ICT consisted of the C-130, which was carrying an Aerial Bulk Fuel Delivery System, refueling the A-10 while maintainers rearmed the aircraft simultaneously.
While the mobility aircraft were on the ground, the team engaged and defended the assets against a simulated opposing force.
“As the Air Force thinks about Agile Combat Employment and AMC thinks about its role in projecting the Joint Force, exercises like this, that combine the use of contingency response and mobility aircraft are the total package,” Richardson said. “We can’t get aircraft in the air without ground support and there’s no point of having ground support if you’re not projecting aircraft.”