Puerto Rico and Michigan ANG integrate CR and ACE capabilities at Agile Rage

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Rafael D. Rosa
  • 156th Wing

As the sound of rifle fire from opposing forces fills the area, during the launch of an A-10C Thunderbolt II, maintainers on the airfield hit the ground for cover and fire back as they radio for support. Tires screeching from the response force vehicle as they zoom by and halt to engage the enemy and hold their position. When in the blink of an eye, the A-10C circles back to swoop down from the skies and eliminate what's left of the opposing forces. This was just one of many scenarios conducted during the Agile Rage 2024 exercise at Avon Park, Florida, Feb. 26, 2024 - March 9, 2024.

Agile Rage 2024 is a National Guard Bureau-led military exercise that involves the collaborative efforts of various Air National Guard Wings conducting joint counter-land and combat search and rescue operations in a simulated medium to high-threat environment. 

The exercise aims to enhance interoperability and integration by combining the efforts of each unit, showcasing their ability to adapt and overcome diverse and challenging scenarios.

“Our goal with Agile Rage is to prepare units for future overseas deployments, and provide readiness and integration opportunities unable to be achieved with home station training," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Garett Ruby, the Agile Rage exercise director.

Integration, yes, it’s this synergy between participating units that allows for complex training opportunities to be coordinated and executed with precision. 

The 156th Contingency Response Group, tasked with leading the contingency response efforts at Avon Park sent the first Puerto Rico Air National Guard self-sufficient contingency response team to synchronize their capabilities to maximize training efforts.

Establishing an operating site with tents, generators and command and control, maintaining security and assessing runways for airfield operations are just the tip of the iceberg.

“Any exercise or training event that allows Airmen to forward deploy will help us better prepare for the future, said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Harry Capo, the contingency response team chief assigned to the 156th CRG. “This helps us identify limiting factors, gaps in training, equipment requirements and provides an opportunity of conducting joint training between different units.”

One such opportunity of this integration was between the 156th CRG, PRANG, and the 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, which were performing Agile Combat Employment with A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft, including maintenance operations and practice bomb loading. 

“Integrating with the 156th CRG was key in giving our ACE team a realistic austere training environment,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adam Dittenber, the A-10 ACE team lead assigned to the 127th Wing.

With both units executing their respective missions optimally, the question was, what do you do if, in the middle of launching an aircraft or conducting CR operations, you are attacked?

Such a concern could not be ignored, therefore, Capo coordinated with Dittenber a series of attacks from opposing forces played by Capo and a small team. 

The attacks were targeted at the airfield and around the CR operating site, their goal was to enhance Airmen’s situational awareness and response procedures, shedding light on how an unsuspected event can impact operating capabilities. 

Everyone had a part to execute, as soon as opposing forces engaged and started firing, it was paramount for Airmen to know how to assess and respond to that threat.

“Team members exercised skills in shoot, move and communicate in conjunction with the quick response forces, command and control communications with the tactical operations center and emergency close air support, calling in airborne A-10’s for simulated attacks on the opposition forces positions,” said Dittenber.

As the ever changing threat landscape continues to evolve, Airmen continuously train and stay adaptable to their environments, reinforcing their multi-capable readiness in order to execute coordinated tactical operations in contested environments.

"Small team operations are the future, not only for CR missions but agile combat employment; by combining forces with our sister units, we were able to validate key concepts and work together to overcome threats and obstacles by executing our multiple capabilities," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kevin Rodriguez, the CRT chief in training assigned to the 156th CRG. 

Though Agile Rage was hosted at the Air Dominance Center in Georgia, the exercise spanned across multiple locations, including the Savannah Combat Readiness Training Center and Townsend Bombing Range, both in Georgia, as well as Avon Park, Florida. With such an expansive operating field, bringing together multiple units with diverse skill sets was almost a necessity.

It’s these in-person war game-style scenarios in which you can truly see a level of commitment from Airmen that is sometimes difficult to capture in theoretical or table-top exercises; though logistics may present challenges at times, it’s evident that these trainings serve to prepare for future fights.