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Joint exercises increase security forces’ readiness, lethality

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tony Harp
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing

Members from the 193rd Special Operations Security Forces Squadron here participated in a few historical firsts this year as they continue to increase the readiness and lethality of their Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element program.

DAGRE team members honed their tactical skills by participating for the first time in the multinational, Indo-Pacific exercises Cobra Gold in Thailand and Balikatan in Philippines, and the Air Combat Command-led Red Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

“Air Force Special Operations Command DAGREs are a premiere force protection element for Air Force Special Operations Forces elements, which require a lengthy amount of skill sets,” said Technical Sgt. Matthew Reed, a 193rd SOSFS DAGRE team lead. “Within the guidance of AFSOCI 31-100, DAGREs maintain currency on a multitude of joint qualification skillsets, some of which include advanced gun fighter techniques, land navigation, mission planning, security survives, defensive driving etc. We as a section maintain readiness and JQS items by training over regularly scheduled drills, exercises and, if able to, attend sustainment training with local or nonlocal training companies that have a relationship with the SOF community.”  

“These exercises amplify our mission sets, improve our skills and align with AFSOC strategic guidance by working with our joint partners,” said Reed. “We sent two DAGRE teams to different areas of responsibilities in the INDO-PACOM theater, providing real world special operation force protection for AFSOC assets for both exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand and exercise Balikatan in the Philippines. The DAGREs that participated in these trips provided anti-terrorism force protection analysis to the mission commander, conducted tactical security details, site security and airfield/hotel security assessments.”

Reed continued with the DAGRE participation in Red Flag, “Our DAGREs joined the Air Combat Command premiere multi-domain Red Flag exercise focusing on great power conflict. The 193 SOSFS DAGRE section teamed up 1 SOW DAGRE and 1 SOW Mission Sustainment Team to create valuable training scenarios, meeting the Red Flag exercise initiatives as well as meet our desired learning objectives. Throughout a three-week exercise, the combined SOF elements hardened the agile combat employment concept through fly-away security, austere airfield security, combat search and rescue force protection all while working with units from the Marine Corps, air traffic control teams, security forces K9, tactical air control party and various ACC air platforms.  

The DAGRE program is ever evolving as it continues to align with AFSOC strategic guidance and the National Defense Strategy. Training begins with the DAGRE qualification course and is supplemented through various avenues to increase team members’ effectiveness and capabilities.

"The DAGRE qualification course creates a highly trained Security Forces Air Commando who is prepared to perform a wide range of unique missions,” said Master Sgt. Michael Dawson, 193rd SOSFS DAGRE program manager. “They must master individual and team skills required to conduct defensive operations, enhance force movement and provide operational force protection. In all permissive and non-permissive environments, DAGRE team members must remain light, lean and lethal."

Building on the training from the multitude of exercises this year, three security forces members also recently completed the Army Air Assault course at Fort Indiantown Gap in August. According to information from the U.S. Army website, the Air Assault course trains military members on the “missions performed by rotary wing aircraft, aircraft safety, aeromedical evacuation procedures, pathfinder operations, principles and techniques of combat assaults, rappelling techniques and sling-load operations.”

“DAGRE teams are notably small, as normally we deploy in five-person teams,” said Reed. “With that said, having such a small team, it is imperative to have additional skill sets. Air Assault not only makes a DAGRE Air Assault insertion qualified, but the member also now has the knowledge on sling loads with rotary aircraft, which can be utilized in the austere environments we deploy to.”

Lt. Col Kathleen Fabrizi, 193rd SOSFS commander said, "Attending Air Assault is a key foundational element in the 193rd SOSFS role in building AFSOC for the future; enabling deliberate development, cultivation and investment in our human capital as our chief competitive advantage over our nation's adversaries."

Tech. Sgt. Jacob Nieto, 193rd SOSFS chief weapons instructor, was the first member from the unit to attend the Security Forces Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course at Fort Bliss, Texas. Nieto also claimed the top leadership award while attending the course. This opportunity allows him to share his gained knowledge and experience with the rest of the organization to increase weapons and tactics proficiency.

“Security Forces Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course is a program meant to develop elite Security Forces members as tactical advisers to leadership at all levels,” said Nieto. “‘Patches,’ as we are referred to, identify combat capability gaps throughout the Security Forces Enterprise and provide innovative solutions to the ever-evolving threat climate. Security Forces Weapons and Tactics is a three-and-a-half-month course consisting of instruction in joint doctrine, Air Force tactics, techniques and procedures, military decision-making process, standard operating procedure development, weaponeering, engagement area development, and 10-day weapons employment fundamentals, and culminates in a 30-day linear exercise and ‘White Paper’ presentation to security forces senior leadership.”

“While the DAGRE teams participated in many exercises away from home, we also hosted a tactical security detail exercise at home,” said Reed. “With the participation of 20 other 193rd SOW members from across the wing, the DAGRE team was able to gain valuable training at home.”