JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing capped a mission assurance exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Feb. 28, 2020.
The five-day exercise tested Airmen’s ability to operate efficiently under various adverse conditions.
During the course of the exercise, Guardsmen were challenged with different scenarios involving kidnapped personnel, disabled digital communications, lack of heat or power, and chemical weapon attacks. They had to find ways to overcome the obstacles while the wing inspection team gathered data to see how processes can be improved.
“Usually, the wing inspection team is composed of quality-assurance members because we’re good at inspecting,” said Chief Master Sgt. Paul Martzall, 176th Maintenance Group Quality Assurance superintendent. “We’re looking at the effectiveness of programs. Wing commanders need to know where they have vulnerabilities.
“We’ll take our findings and put them together with the IG to find program vulnerabilities and failures,” Martzall continued. “After that, we can focus future training on those aspects.”
Friendly Guardsmen – members of the blue force – were tasked with executing plans to counter the attacks. They accomplished this by wearing proper chemical protective gear and following the same procedures as are used in a deployed environment.
“What you put into this training is what you’ll get out of it,” said Senior Master Sgt. Terry Friend, 176th Maintenance Group blue force participant. “One thing we’re trying to do is make this as realistic as we can. Some of our assets like our C-17 (Globemaster IIIs) and HH-60 (Pave Hawks) are likely to travel to more dangerous places, so we should train our Airmen to prepare for those environments.”
After data was collected post-exercise, the wing’s inspector general, Maj. Daniel Uchtmann, evaluated and reported the wing’s readiness and discipline to the wing commander, Col. Anthony Stratton.
“To do this, my team developed a full-scale exercise with the correct level of relevance and rigor by simulating a contested, degraded and operationally limited environment,” Uchtmann explained.
During the simulation, the wing generated combat capability despite numerous hindrances meant to trip up Guardsmen – including severely degraded communications and no heat or electrical power – all while attack simulations from both conventional and chemical weapons took place.
“They quickly overcame the challenges and constantly produced capabilities needed to manage emergencies and defeat our adversaries,” Uchtmann said.
Although a large portion of the wing participated in the mission assurance exercise, many unit members also supported Operations Arctic Eagle, Arctic Edge and ICEX. These exercises took place across Alaska and included players from federal and state agencies as well as Air and Army National Guardsmen from 15 states.
Through exercises like these, Guardsmen practice their arctic capabilities while enhancing their interoperability with other units and agencies.