What do those AOG people do anyway?

  • Published
  • By Col. Rick Yoder
  • Commander, 183rd Air Operations Group
Have you ever wondered what those Air Operations Group (AOG) people do in P-23? Have you ever wondered what those Air Component Operations Squadron (ACOS) people do in the biggest doublewide in Central Illinois, building T-1000? If you answer 'yes' to either of those questions, that makes two of us.

Five years ago, as the Wing prepared to convert to the Air Operations Center (AOC) and Air Force Forces (AFFOR) mission to integrate into the staff of the Air Force Component Headquarters, I had no idea how we would train to this mission. I had no idea what the Airmen, NCOs, and Officers of the AOG would do on UTA weekends. In fact, when the 183rd accepted not only the three typical AOG squadrons Air Operations Squadron (AOS), Air Intelligence Squadron (AIS), and Air Communications Squadron (ACOMS), but also took the Air Mobility Operations Squadron (AMOS) and the Air Component Operations Squadron (ACOS), the Component-Numbered Air Force (CNAF) functional area manager (FAM), I was not sure what we were going be doing and absolutely no idea how we would train. I can still remember that first AOG UTA in 2008, with a brand-new First Sergeant and most of the Squadron Commanders, Superintendent, NCOIC, and full-time positions vacant. In those first few months, the only training we could get our hands around and prioritize was ancillary training and CBTs.

What a difference five years makes! What a difference motivated officers and NCOs, commanders and superintendents, airmen, who are fast-becoming experts in Air Force Air Component training, makes. It has been a long road; AFSC-awarding schools, Initial Qualification Training (IQT), Mission Qualification Training (MQT), and Continuation Training (CT); Warfighter Planning Courses like AFFOR Intermediate Staff Course (AISC), Contingency Wartime Planning Course (CWPC), Joint Air Operations Planning Course (JAOP) and others. Slowly, we took our training, stepped out of our comfort zones and put ourselves to the test in exercises like PANAMAX, Virtual Flag, Integrated Advance, and Home Plate. In 2009, ACC called and informed me that we needed to participate in Blue Flag 10-1. Blue Flag is the USAF Air Component training program, which exercises all of the major muscle movements in the AOC and AFFOR. We were a bit sheepish as we showed up for Blue Flag Crisis Action Planning (CAP) in December 2009, but never got to finish the test as Blue Flag Execution (the war) got cancelled due to Operation UNIFIED RESPONSE (Haiti earthquake). In November 2011, the AOG hosted its first local exercise, Illini Thunder 11. The experience gained from running our first exercise had a huge payoff - the lights were starting to come on. Illini Thunder 13 is a two-year training exercise, cut into blocking and tackling drills on each UTA and will culminate in a 4-day scrimmage (war) November UTA. There are also mini-exercises that take place on the weekend so that members can "fly" their systems to maintain familiarity with the software and the processes in the air component headquarters.

This past year, Blue Flag 13-1 was on the schedule. In the scenario, the country of Washorgon was preparing to invade and occupy the northern portion of Nevidah, a U.S. ally (see map page 4). Fifty four AOG members deployed to Blue Flag CAP and 105 deployed to Blue Flag Execution to integrate into the Air Component headquarters of Joint Task Force Restore Nevidah. While the 505th Command and Control Wing, who facilitates Blue Flag for ACC, was very happy with 183rd AOG performance, stating in the After Action Report, "183 AOG integration was seamless and well above the norm", I was more moved and convinced by my own personal observations.

AFFOR. Five years ago, Master Sgt. Kim Kessler was a Plans and Scheduling technician in the 183rd Maintenance Operations Center. For Blue Flag, as a Logistician in the AFFOR, she was the primary Global Force Management Cell manager for the Commander, Air Force Forces (COMAFFOR), Lt. Gen. Rand. Five years ago, Master Sgt. Tad Mayhall, was a 183rd Munitions troop. During Blue Flag, he used his previous munitions technical expertise planning the bed down of bases in Nevidah during CAP and was the focal point on all munitions issues during execution.

AIS. Staff Sgt. Michelle Ingram was a Photographer assigned to 183rd Communications Flight. During Blue Flag, now Tech. Sgt. Ingram was an ISR Operations Planner, deconflicting mission taskings and recommending modifications to the overall ISR strategy. Tech. Sgt. Rich Davis was in the 103d Communications Flight, and like us, found out his unit was subjected to BRAC. During Blue Flag, Tech. Sgt. Davis, a Network Intel Analyst, worked in the National Technical Integration cell where he identified key enemy logistical,
communications, and control nodes for targeting and/or exploitation. Senior Airman Jared Hayward was a 17-year-old high school student in Williamsville, five years ago, but for Blue Flag, he was an ISR Collection Manager, validating and prioritizing sensor allocations in accordance with Lt. Gen. Rand's Combined Force Air Component Commander (CFACC) intelligence requirements.

ACOMS. Senior Master Sgt. Todd Clark and Tech. Sgt. Seth Delahunt were members of the Communications Flight in 2008. During Blue Flag, Senior Master Sgt. Clark and now 1Lt. Delahunt were analyzing targets for Offensive Cyber Operations (OCO) exploitation and ensuring 92 non-kinetic targets were processed in the Air Tasking Order (ATO). Most members of ACOMS went on the Advance Team to set up the Joint Training Experimentation Network (JTEN), Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System (JWICS), SIPRNET and other C4I systems. Without their expertise and hard work, the exercise would not have gotten off the ground.

AMOS. Five years ago, Maj. Wendy Chapman was an instructor flight nurse in the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Scott AFB. During Blue Flag, she was the Aeromedical Evacuation Control Team (AECT) Chief, appropriately, since she created and implemented the 612th Air Mobility Division (AMD) AE program. Normal, day-to-day 612th AMD operations do not include AE or Air Refueling. Maj Chapman and more than a dozen other AMOS members make the 612th AMD fully operational with all teams by filling essential roles in aeromedical evacuation, air refueling, mission management and air mobility planning. During Blue Flag, they planned and executed more than 200 air mobility missions, moving more than 1,400 short-tons, 450 passengers, and 117 patients.

AOS. In 2008, Master Sgt. Russ Price, Tech. Sgt. Travis Tapscott and Staff Sgt. Chad Bettis were in Maintenance, as an Avionics technician, a Hydraulics technician, and a Weapons Loader, respectively. During Blue Flag Master Sgt. Price was the Senior Air Defense Technician, monitoring defensive counter air missions and ground alert aircraft, passing scramble orders, and coordinating with US Army missile defense cell to warn Air Force bases in Nevidah of incoming enemy missiles. Tech. Sgt. Tapscott was the NCOIC of ATO Production, planning and disseminating over 2000 sorties for two JTFs. Staff Sgt. Bettis was a Senior Offensive Duty Technician and a Common Operational Picture (COP) manager. All three have progressed to the point that they are now instructing members of the 612th AOC about systems and processes within the AOC. The awesome performance of the 183 AOG during Blue Flag 13-1 was, obviously, the result of some well-thought out training plans, excellent facilitation of the training by the full-time technicians, and excellent execution of the training by all AOG members during UTAs. In June, the ACC/IG will culminate our conversion to the AOC and AFFOR mission by performing a Compliance Inspection. This inspection will evaluate and validate how we train to this mission, from AFSC core task training to MQT, IQT and CT.

If you still don't know what those AOG people do - don't worry. If the results at Blue Flag 13-1 are a valid litmus test, the Officers and NCOs of the AOG are doing something right training their aimen. Some of the names and faces have changed from five years ago, but the Core Values have not changed. The Airmen, NCOs and Officers at the 183 FW will always have that Excellence gene in anything and everything that we do. That continues to be proven to me time and again. Even I am still not 100% familiar with what each specific AOG shop does on UTA weekends, but I could not be more proud than I was at Blue Flag. Most importantly, I am starting to see the look of quiet confidence and pride, in the eyes of our personnel, shine in the mission of the AOG. We ain't at the PhD-level yet, but we definitely have a Bachelor's in Air Component Command and Control.