Guardians of the Arctic ready to deploy an agile combat employment rescue force
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Arctic Guardians from the 210th, 211th, and 212th Rescue Squadrons of the 176th Wing as well as support wing units are ready to deploy around the world as the nucleus of a disaster recovery task force. personnel using the principles and tactics of agile combat employment.
According to an Air University brief, ACE is a mode of operation that relies on mission planning, launching, recovering and servicing aircraft from dispersed forward operating sites in concert with allies. and partners.
During the Global War on Terror, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, HC-130J Combat King II aircraft and Guardian Angels (pararescuemen, combat rescue workers and survival, evasion, resistance and evasion) generally worked with other enabling units. forward airbases built, protected and centralized like Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
According to Air Force Doctrine Note 1-21, a possible future conflict with a peer or near-peer nation would endanger U.S. and allied airbases, requiring a hub-and-spoke arrangement of distributed bases that are difficult to find and target. . According to the memo, when properly implemented, “ACE complicates the process of targeting the enemy, creates political and operational dilemmas for the enemy, and creates flexibility for friendly forces.”
Alaska Air National Guard Maj. Brock Roden, 212th RQS Deputy Director of Operations and CRO, explained what a personnel recovery task force would look like under the ACE paradigm.
“The simple version is a US Air Force Rescue Triad PRTF where we have traditional fixed and rotary wing rescue aircraft, capable of aerial refueling, with guardian angel forces on board,” Roden explained. “It’s our preferred and most familiar format to work with, but it’s the starting point. In an ACE environment, this can extend to requesting armed escorts, flying with and/or using resources available with everything from Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys to Navy ships, and perform on everything from a single lone combatant to a post-attack incident with mass casualties to an assisted escape.
Alaska Air National Guard Maj. Ryan Wiese, weapons and tactics chief for the 176th Operations Support Squadron, said the wing’s three rescue squadrons have the benefit of training with C-17 Globemaster III of their sister unit, the 144th Airlift Squadron.
“One of the advantages here at 176 Wing is that we have the strategic airlift piece, so we’re more of a turnkey personnel recovery task force than other locations because we have our airlift at across the ramp under the same wing,” he said. .
In the spring of 2021, members of the Rescue Triad formed ACE concepts when they deployed elements to Air Force Station King Salmon, a remote airfield that lacks the support Airmen enjoy at the home station. Wiese said the wing will continue to apply ACE concepts.
“We will continue to exercise and validate some of our ACE Concepts of Operations,” Wiese said. “We seek to operate from a more austere, less built-up location and exercise some of our [command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence]. We are going to do distributed and geographically separate mission planning.
A key concept of the ACE is the Versatile Airmen concept, which relies on Airmen cross-trained in two or more areas to reduce the personnel footprint at spoke bases. In addition to the Rescue Triad squadrons, Wiese said they plan to employ Airmen from the 176th Maintenance Group, 176th Operations Support Squadron, 176th Logistics Readiness Squadron and 176th Communications Flight. All will have to contribute to other specialties if necessary.
“One of the reasons the Alaska National Guard is a good fit for ACE is that we bring deep experience,” Wiese said. “Versatile Airmen is one of the ACE principles that the Air Force develops, and the Guard has already incorporated that because you have years and decades of experience in every individual who has worked here in his specialty and his multiple specialties during his career. . In a word, they are versatile aviators.
One innovation that the 176th Communications Flight, in partnership with the 176th OSS Intelligence, has already employed is the Mobile Rescue Operations Center, which is a command and control suite including radios, computers, amplifiers and antennae which is specially packaged to deploy quickly in order to set up personnel recovery operations on remote airfields.
Alaska Air National Guard Tech. sergeant. Dustin Hayden, 176th Communications Flight Agile Communications Systems Supervisor, explained how the MROC supports ACE operations.
“The theory behind Agile Communications is to be able to go anywhere and set up an expeditionary communications system,” he said. “We can load this equipment onto an HC-130, potentially an HH-60, take it out to the middle of nowhere and bring in data and voice communications.”
Roden said the 176th Wing Rescue Triad has used ACE concepts for years out of necessity to operate in remote locations at home in Alaska or overseas in countries like Afghanistan.
“In my experience, Air Force Rescue practiced personnel recovery in a way that could be defined as ACE, before ACE became a buzzword,” he said. “I think these concepts validate how we’ve done [personnel recovery] for many years and encouraging rescue squadrons to take concepts such as multi-role airmen even further. This opens up our range of ways to execute the mission with the means available. It is a practice of ingenuity and disruptive thought processes.
Wiese said the Rescue Triad has proven itself over the past decades, performing personnel recovery operations and training in everything from the Iraqi desert to the jungles of Hawaii. He said their training and real-world search and rescue operations in cold Alaska prepared them for ACE PRTF missions around the world.
“Alaska forces are very well equipped and trained to handle any of these sets of issues just based on the day-to-day environment that we train and operate here in Alaska,” Wiese said.