Stingers Embrace Multi-Capable Airman Concept During ACE Exercise

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nicholas Battani
  • 180th Fighter Wing

Airmen from the Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing conducted an Agile Combat Employment exercise at the 122nd Fighter Wing, Indiana Air National Guard Base in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Nov. 6 and 7, 2023.

“Agile Combat Employment, the idea of that is to be able to recover, reload, refuel, and relaunch the aircraft while defending it, with a small footprint,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jerri Reeder, a munitions systems craftsman assigned to the 180FW.

ACE is the Air Force’s operating concept in which Airmen and aircraft disperse from large central bases and operate from smaller, more austere locations, in a “hub-and-spoke” manner, to complicate an adversary’s targeting.

The exercise was the culmination of many months of training the Airmen have been conducting and their first time using the ACE concept to successfully land, refuel, rearm, and relaunch F-16 fighter jets from an unfamiliar location.

“Rearm, refuel, and relaunch, that’s the point of what we do,” said U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Joshua Straka, an avionics specialist assigned to the 180FW. “We’re here to catch jets and turn them quick to get them back in the air.”

Airmen from the 180FW have been training under the ACE concept for over a year and will continue to conduct and perfect the ACE concept, enhancing mission readiness; to ensure combat power can be delivered to combatant commanders, anytime, anywhere.

One of the key concepts of ACE is to allow Airmen to gain a better understanding of other career fields.

“What the ACE training does, is it allows Airmen not just to train in their job but to become multi-capable Airmen and train in a different jobs,” said Reeder.

Airmen learning other trade skills is integral to the ACE concept, as it allows for better interoperability in the field.

“It allows you to broaden your horizons and you really get a better respect for the different maintenance disciplines that we work with every day,” said Straka. “That translates into how we work together and everyday communications and relations.”

This year of training has also come with some challenges for the Airmen to overcome.

“The biggest challenge is being able to balance your time,” said Reeder. “We have to maintain these new qualifications, it’s not just a one-time thing.”

Through these challenges, there comes an opportunity for Airmen to grow as leaders.

“With ACE we step into scenarios where we have Airmen leading from the front and teaching you what they know as experts in their field,” said Reeder. “It gives me an opportunity to learn from them.”

Straka also valued the opportunity to get out in the field and put the skills he has been learning during ACE training to the test.

“What ACE does is it gets us out of our everyday training environment and gives us something to work towards,” said Straka. “These are skills that we will potentially be using in a hot conflict if that happened.”

Reeder expressed how vital the ACE concept is for the Air Force as it looks to maintain mission ready for the future fight.

“Being lean, light, and agile, that’s the name of the game,” said Reeder. “The best way to do that is to be able to know and perform multiple tasks outside of your comfort zone and what you’ve typically learned.”

The ACE training highlights the U.S. Air Force’s commitment to honing the skills and training for the future of air combat, where flexibility, readiness, and agility will take center stage.

“Being a multi-capable Airman makes you better equipped to serve and ultimately that’s why we are all here,” said Reeder. “With things changing in the world, you never know what will happen next and we always have to be prepared for it.”

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