MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — The 820th Base Defense Group (BDG) honed their air base defense expertise necessary for Agile Combat Employment, July 16 to 30, 2023, during exercise Red Flag 23-3 at Nellis AFB, Nev.
During the exercise, 83 air base defense professionals and security forces members combined forces from seven squadrons to independently rehearse forward operating site and contingency-location missions while validating security force-specific implementation.
“The BDG is unique in that we focus on the downrange deployment related execution tasks,” said Col. Joe Sorensen, 820th BDG Commander. “The BDG benefits from being singularly focused on expeditionary and contingency operations, allowing us to develop combat-related capabilities and provide that expertise to elevate the security forces enterprise.”
A BDG headquarters element aligned 66-members from various organizations’ Air Force Specialty Codes into a blue force team which executed three iterations of establishing the temporary basing structure required for Agile Combat Employment.
ACE relies on the agile combat support provided by forward operating sites and contingency locations to provide temporary basing options for refueling and rearmament of aircraft closer to the fight to provide flexibility to combatant commanders in how they employ air assets.
“The first thing that we highlighted was the success of our headquarters element,” said Master Sgt. Bradley Akers, 820th BDG weapons and tactics chief. “We haven’t had a formal battle staff training program in the BDG for quite a while, so this has been the opportunity for us to redesign it, retrain it, and see how it operates.”
This headquarters element received warning orders and air tasking orders anywhere from 30 to 72 hours in advance of a mission and was responsible for generating operations orders, organizing squads, aggregating mission information and directing security and sustainment for up to 36 hours of continuous field operations.
“Had we not had the BDG’s headquarters element, it would not have been nearly as successful as it was,” said Master Sgt. Niles Bartram, 377th Weapons System Security Squadron weapons and tactics chief. “It was a pretty clear indicator that the BDG members bring a significant capability, and we need to find a way to duplicate that in some of our traditional squadrons if we’re going to be able to execute these ACE mission-sets or future theater operations.”
These personnel didn’t have access to aircraft to perform their training, but they didn’t allow this limitation to impede their ability to provide a realistic training and testing opportunity required to validate the tactics they generated. A motivated adversary force led by Air Force Special Operations Command’s Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element provided a very real threat which tested defensive fortifications and Airmen’s fortitude alike.
These blue force air base defenders entrenched in the desert landscape in temperatures elevating to a peak of 117 degrees Fahrenheit as their adversaries launched physical attacks with blank rounds and attempted to exploit vulnerabilities found through ground reconnaissance.
Through this arduous testing of defensive capabilities, 820th BDG members and their mission partners validated that their new squad sizes and formations function and survive first contact with an adversary.
“We took a lot of tactics that are in development at the BDG, new [unit type code] squad sizes, to include rifle squad, weapons squads, headquarters elements, reconnaissance teams, and we’ve tested all those out there with non-BDG security forces members to see what kind of leveling training is needed security forces-wide,” said Akers. “We learned that a lot of our new squad sizes and formations work, and they can be trained throughout the enterprise with minimal leveling training.”
These validations contribute to the 820th BDG objectives of restructuring to meet future warfighting demands.
“We’re trying to bring ourselves back to focusing on defense aligned with doctrine,” said Akers. “We’re reorganizing ourselves, and we’re trying to use that information to reorganize the whole career field to do any type of defensive operation.”
Story by 1st Lt Christian Little, 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing