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Air Force Featured Stories

Air Force supports historic Army Warfighter exercise

  • Published
  • By Deb Henley
  • 505th Command and Control Wing Public Affairs

The 505th Command and Control Wing’s support of the U.S. Army’s Mission Command Training Program resulted in the validation of Victory Corps as a European Command-allocated corps headquarters during the execution of exercise Warfighter 22-1 at Grafenwoehr, Germany, Sept. 27-Oct. 5.

The multi-component exercise, which had the main command post at Grafenwoehr, Germany, a rear command post at Fort Riley, Kansas, and a U.S. Air Force Air Component and Air Operations Center replication cell at Hurlburt Field, Florida, tested the V Corps’ ability to mission command large-scale combat operations (LSCO) in a multinational environment.

The mission command proficiency of 1,402 joint service personnel, including Soldiers from U.S. Army Europe and Africa, V Corps, 3rd Infantry Division, 34th Infantry Division, and their respective subordinate units, were tested and honed during the execution of WFX 22-1.

Warfighter exercises are distributed, simulation supported, multi-echelon, tactical command post exercises fought competitively against a live-thinking regional adversary in a complex environment to prepare units for future LSCO.

“The warfighter [exercise] is rigorous, complex and very time-intensive. It is a nine-day sprint in large-scale ground combat operations. It's the only time our corps and divisions are collaboratively immersed against a near-peer competitor, where they're forced to really understand and improve their wartime mission,” said Army Col. Robert Molinari, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center Group A, Mission Command Training Program, chief of operations.

A substantial part of any warfighter exercise is replicating the air component; this mission is the responsibility of the U.S. Air Force’s 505th CCW, Detachment 1, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This total-force integrated unit’s mission is to provide airpower expertise and exercise support to the U.S. Army’s MCTP and act as the U.S. Air Force's Air Warfare Center liaison to the U.S. Army’s Combined Arms Center.

“This was probably the most significant air component replication for a WFX that we’ve done to date,” said Air Force Col. Michael Goodman, 505th CCW, Det. 1 commander. “Most WFX events utilize a corps to role-play the Combined Forces Land Component, but Gen. Cavoli, the U.S. Army Europe and Africa commander, took the opportunity to train V Corps, his assigned subordinate unit, directly as the CFLCC.

Goodman continued, “The entire USAREUR-AF staff participated and imposed a level of discipline and realism that we’ve never seen during the WFX. It was impressive and helped ensure that the aligned Airmen got the most realistic we’ve seen to date.”

For WFX 22-1, 505th CCW, Det 1 members forward-deployed globally to multiple exercise locations integrating into the exercise control group, standing up the exercise’s replicated AOC, and acting as observer, coaches and trainers providing subject matter expertise in areas that include intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, airspace management, tactical air control, and joint all-domain operations.

“V Corps did a great job. They gave 110% daily. They were receptive to coaching and observations and every single day, across the board, they got better. So, I think it was a fantastic opportunity for V Corps to really see themselves, to improve on, and to prepare for what the Army might ask of them,” Molinari said.

“Our purpose is to ensure we coach our tactical air control party (TACP) members to improve not just their technical proficiency, but also their overall integration with their supported Army maneuver unit command teams and planners,” said Air Force Maj. Thomas Hopkins, 505th CCW, Det. 1 chief observer and coach.

Hopkins made sure his team of coaches and trainers did not lose sight of their larger purpose during the event. He continued, “The bottom line is that we do everything we can to assist the Army’s MCTP in providing a training environment which enables the TACP units to leave the exercise a more ready and lethal enabler than when they arrived.”

The 505th CCW, Det. 1’s main U.S. Air Force training audience were the Airmen assigned to the 4th Air Support Operations Group, Wiesbaden, Germany, and their subordinate units in the exercise.

“The men and women at the 4th ASOG did a phenomenal job under the leadership of Col. Dustin Dupuis, the 4th ASOG commander and also the V Corps air liaison officer,” Goodman said. “Col. Dupuis and his team made significant gains validating new capabilities and authorities that will enable increased lethality of the joint force in LSCO. It was a huge win for the joint force and they made it happen.”

A team of 47 Airmen from the 505th Combat Training Squadron, Hurlburt Field, provided AOC replication during WFX 22-1 in coordination with the forward-deployed exercise control group from the 505th CCW, Det. 1, and this team represented a full-spectrum air component replication to the U.S. Army training audience.

The 505th Communication Squadron configured and maintained command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence, or C4I, and models and simulations systems, in addition to collaborative tools (chat, voice, email, etc.).

“The support provided by the 505th CS allowed the AOC controllers to push real-time updates for air-tasking orders and airspace control orders to theater representatives and ensured a valid common operating picture was in play,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Veronica Williams, 505th CS commander.

WFX 22-1 was a crucial exercise for V Corps in that it marked the final event in a yearlong effort to become a fully certified, operational and combat-capable warfighting headquarters after their reactivation as a corps in October 2020.

“The success of WFX 22-1 has provided the European region and our NATO allies a forward-deployed Corps ready and equipped to meet the demands of a near-peer conflict,” said Air Force Capt. Darrin Nottingham, 505th CS operations officer. “The 505th CS performed admirably while upholding their squadron’s three main objectives: train, innovate and communicate.”

Providing air component replication to the joint force is one of the primary mission capabilities of the 505th CTS.

“As our strategic competitors present increasingly complex problem-sets, it is more vital than ever that our joint partners have a full understanding of the capabilities of airpower and the role of the air component in tackling emerging challenges,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Power, 505th CTS director of operations.

Power continued, “The professionals at the 505th Combat Training Squadron are uniquely positioned to combine a deep experience in Air Force command and control procedures with a keen understanding of developing concepts to replicate the air component and provide an exceptionally realistic operational-level training environment.”

During the eight-day exercise, the 505th CTS’s team facilitated 232 sorties to present full-spectrum airpower, produced more than 19,000 airspace control measures, and published 43 air component planning documents to inform U.S. Army planners.

WFX 22-1 exercised the people, processes and procedures to ready the joint force for LSCO against near-peer adversaries.

V Corps will assume enduring mission requirements in support of U.S. Army Europe and Africa as a split-based headquarters with locations at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Poznan, Poland. The return of the Victory Corps to Europe enhances security in the region and reassures our NATO and partner nations of the United States’ commitment to our European allies. WFX 22-1 was V Corps' final certifying exercise in becoming the U.S. Army's fourth corps headquarters and America's forward-deployed corps in Europe.