LITTLE ROCK, Ark. --- The 34th Combat Training Squadron recently hosted Green Flag Little Rock 20-09, a joint exercise allowing unique integration between units from both mobility and combat air forces at Little Rock Air Force Base and Alexandria International Airport, Louisiana, Aug. 17-23.
As Air Mobility Command’s only joint-accredited flag-level exercise, GFLR offers unit participants a fluid training syllabus with each exercise tailored to meet unit specific requirements and certain major command designated training.
Traditionally used as a vehicle to validate pre-deployment training, the 34th CTS is pivoting the GFLR construct from focusing on testing existing capabilities toward a proving ground where concepts of operations are flushed out in a realistic training environment.
For GFLR 20-09, this meant providing a venue for all participants to sharpen their competitive edge while also embracing and developing new warfighting concepts to include agile combat employment.
“While we are still supporting and addressing the need to hone the building blocks of combat airlift, we also realize the way we fight is going to change if faced with a near-peer adversary,” said Lt. Col. Phillip Newman, 34th CTS commander. “At the foundational level, that shift is going to require integration not only with the combat air forces, but with other mobility platforms.”
This iteration of GFLR welcomed the 39th Airlift Squadron at Dyess AFB, Texas, 354th Fighter Squadron from Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, 22nd Air Refueling Wing from McConnell AFB, Kansas, 621st Contingency Response Group, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, 821st CRG, Travis AFB, California, as well as continued the long-standing relationship with the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.
“The 34th CTS serves as the connective tissue between the strategic, operational and tactical levels,” Newman said. “Bringing in players from across the map, focused and committed to developing the force to advance our warfighting capabilities.”
While at Little Rock AFB, the 34th CTS completed the first ever ACE event in a GFLR exercise.
This encompassed C-130 Hercules transporting an aerial bulk fuel delivery system from Little Rock AFB to the intermediate staging base at Alexandria,Virginia, where they practiced refueling operations with A-10 Thunderbolt IIs—focusing on speed and agility via the “multi-capable Airmen” concept.
“When we go to an austere location, there are two major factors we look at—how do we get weapons and fuel there to sustain operations,” said Capt. Zach Peters, 354th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations. “Through this iteration of GFLR, the 34th CTS gave us a great opportunity to look at how we can improve those elements.”
The 354th FS integrated with the airlift mission planning cell and conducted a flying escort with C-130s during airdrop missions. This was also the first time the 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron trained to assemble weapons in a forward environment.
“The 34th CTS sets the standard with GFLR exercises,” Peters said. “No matter who is tasked to support us, those that have trained at GFLR are going to be familiar with our equipment and understand the mission we are trying to work toward, which will make our entire fighting force more effective.”
The KC-46A Pegasus, the Department of Defense’s newest air-refueling platform, also integrated with GFLR, conducting missions in and out of the intermediate staging base at Alexandria, Va.
There, contingency response elements conducted cargo on- and off-load familiarization, and aeromedical evacuation crews executed valuable training to include a transload of simulated patients from a C-130J Super Hercules to a KC-46. This replicated a real-world scenario in which a C-130 would airlift patients out of harm’s way and the KC-46 would transport them to an established medical facility.
In order to seamlessly integrate with and train other units across the mobility air forces and combat air forces, the 34th CTS comprises a very diverse group of subject matter experts. Within the squadron are pilots, loadmasters, navigators, air mobility liaison officers, aerial porters, intelligence, communication professionals and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE, specialists, all with years of experience within their respective fields.
Energized by the deliberate development of rapid and agile combat capabilities, the 34th CTS continues to create an exercise environment that is increasingly integrated, expanding mission sets that will meet tomorrow's national security challenges.
“The 34th CTS’s targeted efforts are creating a recurring venue for our Air Force to hone operational concepts that will be central to our ability to project and sustain the joint force to meet our national defense objectives within any contested environment,” said Col. John Schutte, 19th Airlift Wing commander. “GFLR is transforming into an exercise platform to ensure our military’s conventional deterrence capabilities remain credible and at the leading edge of operational excellence.”