Airmen from Morris Air National Guard Base‘s Air National Guard / Air Force Reserve Test Center (ACLS), Tucson, Arizona, recently traveled to New Orleans to participate in Operation Southern Lightning Strike.
The multi-service exercise tested the units’ abilities to deploy with minimal personnel and equipment in austere locations while still fulfilling their mission.
The exercise brought together Army and Air National Guard personnel from Arizona, Mississippi, Minnesota, Louisiana and Alabama, including ACLS members from Tucson, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans.
“Exercise Southern Lightning Strike puts the ACE concept into practice: an agile combat job. Basically we have to wage war in a different way, in a different format, ”said Lt. Col. Niul Manske, director of the ACLS test and operations group. “We want to keep our lethality, but we have to be a lot more agile, a lot more mobile than what we’re doing now. ACLS realizes that this is a problem to be solved, and we have come here to solve it.
The exercise serves as Air National Guard early building block to help create new best practices and identify gaps that can be incorporated into current and future deployments.
The ACLS reports to both the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Commands, but 75% of the personnel and aircraft for the exercise were provided by the ANG.
“A lot of times (the guard) is overlooked by the air force on active duty, but we are involved in a lot more missions than most people realize. We are all over the world with different types of missions.” , said Tech. Sgt. Jose Chambers, 183rd Airlift Squadron. “Training allows our military to stay strong. Exercises like this give us stronger strength. We are building good relationships, so on the road we are much better trained on what is really going on.
Lt. Col. David Auston, ACLS Southern Lightning Strike Project Officer and F-16 Fighting Falcon test pilot, echoed the value of deployment.
“This exercise is beneficial because we can interact in a larger force structure, which we don’t do regularly at home,” he said. an environment that we do not know.
While the exercise is designed to challenge participants to operate in a new location, a real logistical problem presented all Airmen with a real obstacle to problem solving which they overcame with quick thinking and cooperation.
“We had a jet break and we weren’t going to be able to do [the] mission, ”said Staff Sgt. Terrell Lennox, a materiel manager with the 162nd Logistics Readiness Squadron.
They needed a room and Lennox contacted nearby units and was able to locate the room.
“I contacted the C-130 (Globemaster III) who’s here for Southern Strike and the crew has agreed to go get him, ”Lennox said. “Engines running, they threw the part in the back of the C-130 and brought it back to us for the next mission the next morning. “
The Airmen expressed overall appreciation for the opportunity to collaborate, test and learn from each other during the exercise.
“It was a great experience to be able to work with the different teams and face the different cells,” said Lennox. “I hope everyone has the opportunity to come here one day on the road and participate in this exercise.”
The ACLS team recognized the effectiveness of the overall exercise. Auston summed up ANG’s involvement.
“The biggest takeaway for the Air National Guard is the necessary modernization and changes underway by the test center [AATC], but also noting the back office support, logistics and execution that are required to adapt to the new environment we face today, ”said Auston. “The war we have waged over the past 20 years is not the one we envision for the future. We need to modernize gradually to be successful as we move forward. “
ACLS Headquarters is a tenant unit of the 162nd Air National Guard Wing located at Morris ANG Base in Tucson, Ariz., But an entity that reports to both the ANG and the Reserve. Air Force.
“We are honored to welcome the ACLS to Morris Air National Guard Base,” said Brigadier General Jeffrey Butler, commander of 162 Wing. “They play a big role in making our US military a more lethal and innovative force.”