927th Air Refueling Wing exercises agile combat employment, full spectrum readiness

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  • By Tech. Sgt. Brad Tipton
  • 927th Air Refueling Wing

The 927th Air Refueling Wing conducted a large-force exercise, Feb 5-9, at Cecil Airport, Jacksonville, Fla., and MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Dubbed 'FEBEX,' the exercise aimed to enhance skills of Citizen Airmen across the wing and provide them the necessary training for agile combat employment, ensuring full-spectrum readiness.

VIDEO | 03:30 | 927th Air Refueling Wing exercises agile combat employment, full spectrum readiness

“We really wanted to assess our ability to react to a near-peer adversary,” said Col. Kurt Matthews, 927th Air Refueling Wing commander. “Those elements included mission-tasking orders that change, being in a remote location with limited resources, and having to adapt and overcome to follow the intent of orders and accomplish our mission.”

Throughout the exercise, participants were challenged to not only carry out their specified mission-related duties but also stand-up temporary facilities for operations, command and control and even mortuary affairs. With little to none of the typical support afforded by an Air Force installation, Airmen carried out the logistics and established the vital services necessary to sustain operations in an austere environment including deployment and use of a single pallet expeditionary kitchen.

“We wanted them to understand that what we’re used to seeing for the last twenty years is not what we’re going to see in the future,” said Chief Master Sgt. Heather Bragdon, 927th Air Refueling Wing exercise planner.

Planners implemented a variety of scenarios throughout the exercise to increase stress and demonstrate full spectrum readiness such as simulated chemical attacks and attempts at unauthorized entry.

“As far as training, we’ve done TCCC [Tactical Combat Casualty Care], CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear] and CATM [Combat Arms Training and Maintenance],” said Senior Airman Taylor Jaberi, 927th Security Forces Squadron fire team member. “That all played a part in the mission, and we definitely used CBRN in full-force. It all plays a part in readiness because we all need that specific training in order to be ready.”

The scenarios built into the exercise served as a capstone, putting to the test many of the fundamentals refreshed in classrooms throughout the December and January unit training assemblies.

“We had a lot of different milestones throughout the year to get our Airmen ready, and I think all of those aspects made the exercise successful and the Airmen ready and confident in what they’re going to have to do when they go down range,” said Bragdon.

Planning and preparation for the exercise began in early 2022, with the implementation of a continuous process improvement strategy throughout the wing to maximize training for future and upcoming deployments, while minimizing obstacles and barriers.

“We assembled a group of subject matter experts from across the wing, including unit deployment managers, unit training managers, program managers, supervisors and other stakeholders,” said Col. Meredith Seeley, 927th Air Refueling Wing process manager. “By increasing cross-functional communication, streamlining scheduling, and providing near-term focus on readiness for our deployers, our metrics increased drastically. The immediate impact is apparent.”

Further demonstrating their ability to adapt to a challenging operating environment, maintainers conducted KC-135 aircraft hot pit refueling on the newly certified flight line at Cecil Airport. During this process, crews returning from an aerial refueling mission refill their tanks while maintaining power to one engine before quickly disembarking on another mission. In addition to expeditious recovery and refueling, the maintenance team overcame a key challenge associated with agile combat employment – deploying a far smaller number of personnel to accomplish the same mission.

“Less people are doing more jobs,” said Staff Sgt. Derek Spahr, 927th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “All of us are doing each other’s jobs because we’re in smaller team and we still have to get it done – the same recovery, the same launches and refueling. We still get a ten-person job done with maybe four people in the agile combat employment concept – Those people are just multi-capable.”

Exercising full spectrum readiness benefits Citizen Airmen from all career fields, preparing them for deployments and operations within contested environments. Far from the action at Cecil Airport, Airmen from the 927th Aeromedical Staging Squadron exercised alongside the 45th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (45th AES) on MacDill AFB, off-loading simulated patients from a Travis AFB, Calif., C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft to a casualty staging area.


“We got our hands on equipment and got to do our job with patient movement,” said Airman First Class Arianne Espinosa Coffie, 927th Aeromedical Staging Squadron aerospace medical technician. “In this exercise we got to work alongside the AES, giving a more realistic view of the whole mission rather than just stopping at either loading or off-loading patients at the bus.”

Planning, coordination and execution of readiness exercises enables the 927th ARW to develop, plan and implement techniques and procedures for maintaining a “Ready now” mindset throughout the entire wing. Airmen at all levels are better able understand how their individual roles contribute in a future conflict, enabling them to take readiness into their own hands.

“Our Airmen were talking real-time about what we could do to make our training even more realistic and challenging,” said Matthews. “They were excited and realized that in some areas they were already running, and it instilled higher confidence in the type of training they were getting.”

In the face of challenges arising from both the exercise and the unpredictable real-world logistics of moving aircraft and personnel, 927th ARW Citizen Airmen utilized their training and skills to accomplish numerous objectives. Maintaining proficiency in this manner is vital to mission success in potential future near-peer adversarial conflicts.

“They are ready,” said Bragdon when asked her overall impression of the Airmen’s performance. “They successfully pushed this mission for four days straight, no matter what it looked like, and they did it with such amazing attitudes and confidence.”