GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
Generation of airpower requires consistent and reliable airfield operations services. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. has clearly outlined his prediction in Accelerate, Change or Lose that future conflict will likely occur in contested, congested and austere environments. These future conflicts will require agile, multi-capable air and space professionals to perform operations according to a hub and spoke concept.
The 319th Reconnaissance Wing is working to integrate Agile Combat Employment capabilities and Multi-Capable Airman competencies into local operations to meet this call to action.
Four airmen from the 319th Operations Support Squadron attended the two-week Landing Zone Safety Officer course facilitated by the 53rd Combat Airfield Operations Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, adding landing zone tactics, techniques and procedures to the 319th RW’s arsenal.
“The airfield operations career field was the first to build a qualification training package for MCA out of all career fields,” said Capt. Laura Acevedo, airfield operations flight chief for the 319th OSS. “What we wanted to achieve was to take advantage of our cross-functional nature and capitalize on training on similar skillsets within the airfield operations community.”
Tech. Sgt. Connor Schlegel, radar airfield and weather systems section chief; Tech. Sgt. Trevor Sachs, Radar Approach Control air traffic controller; Tech. Sgt. David Matthews, tower air traffic controller and Master Sgt. Rondarrius McDonald, deputy airfield manager, all from the 319th OSS, learned LZSO principles during one-week of classroom instruction and a local exercise.
The team then traveled to Camp Guernsey Joint Training Center, Wyoming, for a one-week field exercise.
Assisted by C-130J Hercules and a UH-1 Huey, the 319th OSS team established a landing zone, radio communications and air traffic control capabilities; generated aircraft sorites and sustained those operations for 4 days and 3 nights.
“You can ‘land’ an aircraft anywhere once, whether or not it can take off again is another story,” said Sachs. “The purpose of LZSOs are to ensure aircraft can land and later take off from just about anywhere that meets the criteria. You also learn a little of everything that goes into operating an airfield, we had RAWS and airfield management guys calling in aircraft on the radio.”
The LZSO course exposes airfield managers, air traffic controllers and radar airfield and weather systems maintainers to their lateral career fields and challenges them to work outside their primary skillsets.
“I’m sure everyone in that class knows I’d never talked to an airplane before, but I embraced the challenge of it,” said Schlegel. “I work with these guys every day, but I never get to see what they do up close. It was great to get a snip-it, a small taste of what they do and going forward, the capabilities from my standpoint are being able to walk into any airfield and being able to do any job asked of me.”
Landing zone capabilities also shift airfields from requiring legacy large, heavy equipment packages and provide the means to establish and operate air bases with a small footprint, as demonstrated by the four-person team.
ACE environments may require sortie generation from multiple locations or from locations without basic amenities like power or a paved runway. LZSO training ensures airfield operations personnel are adequately prepared to meet mission needs anytime, anyplace with little to no infrastructure.
“Prior to this course we didn’t have anyone qualified to do this function,” said Acevedo. “In a contingency situation, if the airfield was out for the count, there’s no saying we can’t get on Highway 2 and build a landing zone. The larger picture was to gain the Wing the capability to generate combat capabilities in any austere environment and create a power projection platform anywhere, anytime, as needed.”
As the Department of Defense continues to train, equip and deploy combat-ready forces for today’s fight, the 319th RW is ensuring they are ready to provide combat ready airmen to defeat tomorrow’s threat.