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Bomber, Refueler communities integrate for ACE exercise

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Celeste Zuniga
  • 307th Bomb Wing

The 307th Bomb Wing conducted their first integrated Agile Combat Employment (ACE) exercise with the 914th Air Refueling Wing here June 23-30.

ACE is a key operating concept for how the units will fight in a modern, contested environment, sharpening their ability to operate from unfamiliar locations with minimal resources and support. It also shifts the generation of airpower from large, centralized bases to networks of smaller, dispersed locations to complicate adversary planning.

"As we look to possible future conflicts, we need to ensure that we are training our skills based on the potential enemies we would face," stated Lt. Col. Greg Watson, 343rd Bomb Squadron commander. "We need the ability to go somewhere we've never been before and operate efficiently on our own."

The exercise highlighted the Air Force Reserve units' ability to integrate in a dynamic threat environment.

"The B-52 and the KC-135 were designed to work as a pair for missions," stated Lt. Col. Ryan Mowers, commander of the 328th Air Refueling Squadron. "It's very important for us to be able to operate very closely together on the ground."

Elements of the active duty 2nd Bomb Wing also participated in the effort. Integration between active-duty and Reserve components has been a hallmark of Air Force operations, with ACE amplifying that effort.

"They can expect to operate under the same expected combat conditions, so they need to practice the same tactics, techniques, and procedures in terms of being in an unfamiliar location," Watson stated. "It allows us to support one another and leverage that ability to further our ACE procedures."

The units completed the exercise using minimal parts and limited personnel, forcing the Airmen to effectively use sparse resources without a pre-planned mission package.

"When we're operating out here, we have to learn how to mission-plan in this austere location with the limited equipment we have," stated Lt. Col. Sonny Tobler, 343rd Bomb Squadron assistant director of operations. "We have to do it in this new location with ever-evolving threats."

Watson pointed out that integrating the different components contributed to the exercise's effectiveness.

"A lot of players came together to make this happen," he said. "We are very grateful for our total force integration partners, and we could not do this without them."