Agile Rage 2022
Airmen from the Idaho Air National Guard’s 124th Fighter Wing spent two weeks at the Combat Readiness Training Center in Alpena, Michigan, participating in Agile Rage ’22.
Agile Rage is an ANG and joint, live-fire exercise designed to train ANG units in the tactics, techniques and procedures highlighted by the United States Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment mission.
More than that, Agile Rage, through various combat environment disciplines, facilitates the USAF’s focus on the multi-capable Airman – adaptable, agile Airmen, capable of executing tasks outside of their primary scope of work.
“Exercises like these give everyone a better perspective of the entire operation,” said Col. Chad Kornberg, 124th FW commander. “Whether it’s your most experienced pilot or your newest airman, training in a new location like this enables units to form camaraderie at an accelerated pace – something you don’t often experience in the month-to-month guard weekend schedule.”
One of the core components of this exercise was the integrated combat turn. ICTs differ from your standard aircraft launch and recovery process in many different ways. The integration piece brings a variety of shops together from across the maintenance group to accomplish multiple tasks in tandem, such as fueling the aircraft and loading the required munitions with the engine running and the pilot in the seat. These tasks would typically be accomplished independently, without the pilot present. However, the nature of combat requires agility and adaptability in unfamiliar territory.
“It’s obviously a bit dangerous, so everyone is on alert,” said Capt. Andrew Huff, pilot with the 190th Fighter Squadron. “Working together to quickly turn a jet and keep the fight going is a little non-standard and really good training for us. Being unfamiliar with the area actually sharpens our skills. It allows us to train, see things we’re not used to and work through problems together.”
While the ACE concept, through ICTs, creates multi-capable Airmen, general maintenance in an agile environment renders a similar effect across the maintenance group. Just as tasks during the launch and recovery process are usually accomplished independently, day-to-day maintenance is typically accomplished by specific shops. In an agile combat environment, Airmen from different maintenance shops might be required to come together to perform maintenance that would traditionally fall outside the scope of their usual job description.
For instance, during Agile Rage, Tech. Sgt. Cameron Gumm, from the 124th engine shop, guided a team of Airmen from the maintenance group through the complex, labor-intensive process of successfully replacing an aircraft engine. Another example can be seen during an ICT, when crew chiefs assist weapons personnel with loading rockets. Even cyber personnel can be tasked with assisting crew chiefs in an aircraft recovery.
“It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what we do at home,” said Kornberg, “and oftentimes you don’t have the time or make the time to see how everyone else does their job. This kind of experience enables those opportunities. To reduce the time a jet is on the ground getting loaded and being serviced, that requires people doing other people’s jobs.”
As the nature of military conflict evolves and shifts, the military must adapt. Airmen will continue to grow in their specialized career fields, while simultaneously assisting others in different work areas. This interoperability could be seen on a large scale throughout Agile Rage, as units from the Oklahoma, West Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois Air National Guards came together to collectively exercise the many aspects of ACE.
“There’s really no standard yet, and this is why the Air Force has asked us to embrace the ACE concept,” said Kornberg. “That’s why anytime you can get out with other units, it’s a good thing, because then you start to meld minds. And hopefully, this allows us to come together and develop something more scripted.”
Employing this concept in Michigan, or someplace other than Idaho, gives our Airmen a unique opportunity.
“The benefit of doing this in Michigan allows for a different sort of terrain – a different kind of flying area, a different range for our pilots,” said Staff Sgt. Cole McCormick, a 124th Maintenance Group crew chief. “It allows us to integrate with other units like the C-130s. It allows us to figure out a process that’s more of a real-world scenario.”
As a state guard unit, the 124th FW fulfills both a state and federal mission. The 124th FW is staffed almost entirely by those in our local community. The training and collaboration received through Agile Rage is just as vital as the community support the wing receives.
“We go to great lengths to get our Airmen trained, so that when they go into a situation, it’s not the first time they’ve seen it,” said Kornberg. “Every day, we’re out here doing things to make our Airmen ready to go to combat, if called upon, and then to return home safely.”