193rd joins SOF, coalition forces at Emerald Warrior

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Claire Behney
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing
The 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pa., teamed up with other U.S. Special Operation Forces and coalition forces as they dominated the Gulf Coast during the Emerald Warrior Exercise, Hurlburt Field, Fla., April 22 through May 3.

The 193rd's Special Operations Squadron, Maintenance Group and Medical Group; and the 112th Air Operations Squadron, State College, Pa., all participated in EW. The EW exercise operational area spanned 1.5 million acres and included nine air-to-ground live fire areas and six ranges, giving the 193rd - and the rest of the exercise participants - invaluable training applicable to the current combat environment.

The primary purpose of EW is to exercise special operations components in urban and irregular warfare settings to support combatant commanders in theater campaigns. EW leverages lessons from Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and other historical lessons to provide better-trained and ready forces to combatant commanders.

For the 193rd, the missions started with 112th AOS...

112th Air Operations Squadron
Sixteen Airmen from the 112th AOS participated in EW, including members of the squadron's Operations Flight, Intelligence Flight and Air Space and Air traffic control; and some Airmen from the 258th Air Traffic Control Squadron, Johnstown, Pa.

"We provide the commander here, the exercise director, with the ability to track every airborne asset throughout the entire flying window," said Lt. Col. Rob Brawley, 112th AOS director of operations. "We give him visibility on where his assets are and what they're doing, as well as a plan to keep them safely deconflicted throughout the flights of the day and we do it on a continuous basis - so while we're controlling today's flying operation, we're also building a plan for tomorrow's flying operation and that gives the exercise director the opportunity to plan and deconflict for the next day as well."

Some of the Airmen of the 112th built the daily air tasking order for the exercise. These orders tasked all the flyers with their missions and provided a common reference for the air space, keeping the pilots safe through deconfliction.

112th Airmen also worked as liaisons for the air traffic control towers in the exercise, which allowed the whole exercise to flow smoothly in the air. These towers included locations at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Atlanta, Houston and Jacksonville, Miss.

The 112th's participation in EW has presented some key takeaways for the unit and the rest of Special Operations.

"We've learned a lot in how to integrate with the Special Operations command and control, which is exactly the reason we came down here, to be better command-and-control players for the Special Operations world and we've done that pretty well," Colonel Brawley said. "We've learned a lot about how they operate, while at the same time being able to teach them a little about how the conventional side operates and how we can integrate better together; that's worked out wonderfully - the exercise has not had that opportunity before and it really seems to be proving to be a huge benefit on both sides."

While building their knowledge base, the Airmen of the 112th were also able to build a solid working relationship with their active-duty and reserve counterparts.

"The interaction between the Guard and active duty here at Emerald Warrior is honestly seamless and you can't really tell who is who other than by looking at [uniform] patches," said Colonel Brawley. "The contributions of the Reserves are not to be counted out as well - perhaps 40 to 50 percent of the participants in the exercise are Guard and Reservists ... we're fully integrated and work seamlessly and there's no question as to who plays what role."

193rd Special Operations Squadron

It's with the 112th's air tasking orders that the 193rd's EC-130J Commando Solo aircrew was able to safely travel through the exercise' s air space to execute their missions.

"There's a lot of coordination that has to happen before the plane gets off the ground - so it starts with working with the user, whoever we're working for in the deployed location," said Capt. Jason Tuell, 193rd weapon systems officer. "We'll get real-time schedules off of them with regard to the operation, when forces are going in and when they're coming out; from there we get ourselves into the air tasking order and working with all the other assets that are going to be supporting the operation as well - whether it be a gun ship or a helicopter, there's a lot of deconfliction."

The Commando Solo's aircrew was tasked with missions of military information support operation and worked with other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to prevent enemy communication. To be able to support the length of the mission, the aircrew also had to do an in-flight refuel, supported by the 911th Air Refueling Squadron, 916th Air Refueling Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.

"This is what it's going to be like in real life as far as integrating with all the other assets and coalition forces; its experience that the crews need to really help them be ready when the call comes in for them to deploy," Captain Tuell said. "Not just for us, but for the other assets as well, we're making a name for ourselves and making sure all the other assets out there understand what electronic attack and an IO [information operation] mission is and how we can support them."

193rd Special Operations Maintenance Group

The aircrew wouldn't be able to get a plane off the ground without the support of the 193rd Special Operations Maintenance Group, to include crew chiefs and missions systems.

"My mission has been to support the aircraft in any flights of narrow band transmission systems," said Senior Airman Bryan Summy, 193rd Missions Systems, RF transmissions. "If they run into any issue in flight they bring it back to me and I do my best to fix it and get the equipment back to operational so they can go on with the mission."

Along with ensuring the transmission equipment is properly functioning for missions, the Maintenance Group also has to work with the local maintenance operations center to organize the needs for takeoff.

"It takes a lot of coordination with the local MOC between fueling and refueling, whatever the mission requires, or getting out any generator equipment to get the plane started first thing in the morning," Airman Summy said. "It takes a lot from the crew chiefs. We have to be out here a couple hours early to prep the plane and inspect the aircraft so it's ready for flight."

193rd Special Operations Medical Group

Four Airmen of the 193rd's Special Operations Medical Group supported the EW exercise from the ground. Their mission: provide real-world medical support to the SOF members.

"We're providing real world medical support for the SOF members who are jumping, repelling, or fast-roping out of aircraft and at times we are playing in the scenario as patients," said Staff Sgt. Nicolas Crouse, aerospace medical technician.

The Medical Group Airmen were stationed at various SOF drop locations throughout the exercise operational area to include Camp Shelby, Miss.; Gadsden, Ala.; Apalachicola, Fla.; and Hurlburt Field. At each location, the Airmen were teamed up with an active-duty Airman.

"It's very important to have the active duty work with Guard members," Sergeant Crouse said. "Members here do realize that we train a lot, possibly a lot more than they do and it surprises them - it's always nice to surprise someone about how much training we receive, but also that they realize we are competent personnel."

The Sergeant's teammate, Senior Airman Killian Viles, Hurlburt Field, medical technician, said the two made a good team.

"He's a very hard worker, very easy to work with, very easy to communicate with and very responsible - we never had a lack in communication and everything worked very well," said Airman Viles. "The Guardsmen are very capable of doing their jobs and in some cases they had things to teach us. They have a very broad knowledge base."

Sergeant Crouse said a medic with some down time is a good medic, for it means that no one is getting injured. However, the Medical Group Airmen did have to face minor real-world medical incidences at each of their locations.

From the Medical Group's real-world support, to the 112th keeping the exercise' s air space deconflicted and the Operations and Maintenance Groups keeping the flying mission strong, the 193rd was able to show their relevance to the SOF mission during the EW exercise. Along with showing the relevance of the Wing, EW has played a beneficial part in the readiness of the 193rd.