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Agile Alaskan Airmen Increase Air Power

  • Published
  • By SMSgt Julie Avey
  • 168th Wing

As threats continue to evolve, multi-capable Airmen familiarize themselves with different specialties, allowing them to become more agile. The 168th Civil Engineering Squadron, 168th Security Forces, and 168th Medical Group joined forces to augment each other's strengths during an agile combat employment exercise Oct. 12-16, 2023.

The United States continues to focus on the Indo-Pacific Region, and the 168th Wing, Alaska Air National Guard, is prepared to defend the nation and meet the challenge.

At Fort Greely Donnelly Training area 107 miles southeast of Fairbanks, Airmen established base operations, providing light, power, structures to do business, and living quarters, simulated a contested environment, created security perimeters, conducted 9 Line medevac requests, and completed training objectives across the spectrum of operations.

The first morning started with a convoy of dump trucks and heavy equipment loaded up and driven across the Alaska Arctic ice roads to Fort Greely training grounds bordered on the south by the Alaska Mountain Range.

"We are empowering our Airmen to lead and solve problems in different ways," said Lt. Col. Mathea Rasmussen, 168th Civil Engineering Squadron commander. "This exercise prepares us to defend and keep the adversary from wanting to start something today."

168th WG Emergency Management connected to train with 354th Fighter Wing EM during the exercise, sharpening their skills to respond to a potential threat quickly and safely.

Airmen from the 168 CE, 168 SFS, and 168 MDG trained to refine their skills. During the exercise, Airmen from these units demonstrated their integrated readiness, performed outside their career fields, and expanded their knowledge. The training prepares as many Airmen as possible to defend and operate in remote locations during war.

The training aims to ensure all Airmen are prepared to operate equipment or set up an entry control point to conduct security outside of their career field. The ACE exercise assessed military operations in complex and dynamic remote environments.

Senior Airman Daniel Bauer is Security Forces at the 168 WG but was a CE "dirt boy" during the ACE exercise.

"It was good to run the heavy equipment because if we ever end up stuck somewhere where we don't have anyone else to run it, we will have the skills," said Bauer. "It is good to have the skills and good for the CE folks to learn what we do as well.”

The Airmen responded to threats they may be facing and are doing it more quickly and efficiently to keep the aircraft in the sky on mission-advancing air power. 

"It was neat to see CE and SFS cross-train," said Capt. Michael Nash, 168th Wing Deputy Base Civil Engineer. "I understand what an ECP is but have never had to see all the different aspects and considerations that go into it. "It is great to work with Security Forces—to go through the different aspects as well as get them exposed and oriented to some of the heavy equipment we have as well as capabilities both units have."

Senior Airman Austin Folse serves as an Air Force Engineer in the 168th Wing and an Assistant Community Planner in his civilian career at Eielson Air Force Base. Folse trained everyone on survey equipment during the exercise and got familiar with heavy equipment. He said, "The exercise is essentially getting us accustomed to this type of environment with minimal assets."

Staff Sgt. Lolito Mendoza, paving equipment and construction section at 168 WG, lead during the exercise, said the positive attitude of everyone to lean forward allowed mission success. He added, "If you are from Alaska, jumping on heavy equipment is part of it, and you got to have the skill."

The multi-capable term is a mindset the National Guard has been in for a long time as they bring their skills from their civilian careers to their military duty.

Mendoza is also a telecom specialist in his civilian career for the Alaska Fire Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Department of Interior. He also provides internet and radio communications for wildfire incidents.

When a large amount of the force trains in different aspects of the mission, the likelihood of success increases. The 168th Wing continues increasing agile combat employment through MCA and the setup of forward operations.