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Exercise Silent Arrow demonstrates AFSOC combat versatility in future conflicts

Two Airmen serve food to another Airman during Exercise Silent Arrow in Wendover Utah on October 27th 2021.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class William Lominick, 27th Special Operations Support Squadron weather journeyman, receives a hot meal from Airmen assigned to the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group Detachment 1 Mission Sustainment Team 1 during Exercise Silent Arrow at Wendover, Utah, Oct. 27, 2021. Known as a validation exercise, Silent Arrow is the final part in a series of exercises designed to test the effectiveness of Air Force Special Operations Command's MST initiative. The MST pathfinding initiative pairs Airmen from 22 career fields to create small teams able to operate independent of main bases, by training them to use skill sets outside of their normal duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Drew Cyburt)

A row of Osprey Aircraft prepare to take off.

A row of CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft assigned to the 20th Special Operations Squadron prepare to take off during Exercise Silent Arrow at Wendover, Utah, Oct. 27, 2021. Known as a validation exercise, Silent Arrow is the final part in a series of exercises designed to test the effectiveness of Air Force Special Operations Command's Mission Sustainment Team initiative. The MST pathfinding initiative pairs Airmen from 22 career fields to create small teams able to operate independent of main bases, by training them to use skill sets outside of their normal duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Drew Cyburt)

A CV-22 tiltrotor aircraft lands while an MC-130J Commando two aircraft taxis down a runway.

A CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft lands while an MC-130J Commando II aircraft taxis down the runway during Exercise Silent Arrow at Wendover, Utah, Oct. 27, 2021. Known as a validation exercise, Silent Arrow is the final part in a series of exercises designed to test the effectiveness of Air Force Special Operations Command's Mission Sustainment Team initiative. The MST pathfinding initiative pairs Airmen from 22 career fields to create small teams able to operate independent of main bases, by training them to use skill sets outside of their normal duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Drew Cyburt)

Colonel Terence Taylor receives a brief in front of a tent from Major Travis Burns.

U.S. Air Force Col. Terence Taylor, 27th Special Operations Wing commander receives a brief from Maj. Travis Burns, 20th Special Operations Squadron assistant director of operations, during Exercise Silent Arrow at Wendover, Utah, Oct. 27, 2021. Known as a validation exercise, Silent Arrow is the final part in a series of exercises designed to test the effectiveness of Air Force Special Operations Command's Mission Sustainment Team initiative. The MST pathfinding initiative pairs Airmen from 22 career fields to create small teams able to operate independent of main bases, by training them to use skill sets outside of their normal duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Drew Cyburt)

Colonel Terence Taylor receives a briefing from Major Travis Burns.

U.S. Air Force Col. Terence Taylor, 27th Special Operations Wing commander receives a brief from Maj. Travis Burns, 20th Special Operations Squadron assistant director of operations, during Exercise Silent Arrow at Wendover, Utah, Oct. 27, 2021. Known as a validation exercise, Silent Arrow is the final part in a series of exercises designed to test the effectiveness of Air Force Special Operations Command's Mission Sustainment Team initiative. The MST pathfinding initiative pairs Airmen from 22 career fields to create small teams able to operate independent of main bases, by training them to use skill sets outside of their normal duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Drew Cyburt)

Senior Master Sergeant John Spencer briefs Colonel Bernabe Whitfield in front of a tent.

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John Spencer, 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group Detachment 1 Mission Sustainment Team 1 lead, and U.S. Air Force Col. Bernabe Whitfield, 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group commander, discuss the purpose and experience of the MST during Exercise Silent Arrow at Wendover, Utah, Oct. 27, 2021. Known as a validation exercise, Silent Arrow is the final part in a series of exercises designed to test the effectiveness of Air Force Special Operations Command's MST initiative. The MST pathfinding initiative pairs Airmen from 22 career fields to create small teams able to operate independent of main bases, by training them to use skill sets outside of their normal duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Drew Cyburt)

Colonel Terence Taylor greets 27th Special Operations Mission Sustainment Team leaders.

U.S. Air Force Col. Terence Taylor, 27th Special Operations Wing commander, greets the leaders of the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group Detachment 1 Mission Sustainment Team 1 during Exercise Silent Arrow at Wendover, Utah, Oct. 27, 2021. Known as a validation exercise, Silent Arrow is the final part in a series of exercises designed to test the effectiveness of Air Force Special Operations Command's MST initiative. The MST pathfinding initiative pairs Airmen from 22 career fields to create small teams able to operate independent of main bases, by training them to use skill sets outside of their normal duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Drew Cyburt)

A group of Airmen construct a tent.

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group Detachment 1 Mission Sustainment Team 1 construct a tent during Exercise Silent Arrow at Wendover, Utah, Oct. 27, 2021. Known as a validation exercise, Silent Arrow is the final part in a series of exercises designed to test the effectiveness of Air Force Special Operations Command's MST initiative. The MST pathfinding initiative pairs Airmen from 22 career fields to create small teams able to operate independent of main bases, by training them to use skill sets outside of their normal duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Drew Cyburt)

Master Sergeant Matthew Hensley instructs Airmen on how to construct a tent.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Matthew Hensley, 56th Special Operations Intelligence Squadron intel analyst, instructs members of the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group Detachment 1 Mission Sustainment Team 1 on how to pack a tent during Exercise Silent Arrow at Wendover, Utah, Oct. 29, 2021. Known as a validation exercise, Silent Arrow is the final part in a series of exercises designed to test the effectiveness of Air Force Special Operations Command's Mission Sustainment Team initiative. The MST pathfinding initiative pairs Airmen from 22 career fields to create small teams able to operate independent of main bases, by training them to use skill sets outside of their normal duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Drew Cyburt)

An MC-130J Commando II aircraft conducts a flyover before landing during Exercise Silent Arrow at Wendover, Utah, Oct. 29, 2021. Known as a validation exercise, Silent Arrow is the final part in a series of exercises designed to test the effectiveness of Air Force Special Operations Command's Mission Sustainment Team initiative. The MST pathfinding initiative pairs Airmen from 22 career fields to create small teams able to operate independent of main bases, by training them to use skill sets outside of their normal duties.
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An MC-130J Commando II aircraft conducts a flyover before landing during Exercise Silent Arrow at Wendover, Utah, Oct. 29, 2021. Known as a validation exercise, Silent Arrow is the final part in a series of exercises designed to test the effectiveness of Air Force Special Operations Command's Mission Sustainment Team initiative. The MST pathfinding initiative pairs Airmen from 22 career fields to create small teams able to operate independent of main bases, by training them to use skill sets outside of their normal duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Drew Cyburt)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

Airmen from the 27th Special Operations Mission Support Group Detachment 1 Mission Sustainment Team 1 participated in Exercise Silent Arrow Oct. 25 - 29, 2021 at multiple locations across N.M. and Utah. Known as a validation exercise, Silent Arrow is the final part in a series of exercises designed to test the effectiveness of Air Force Special Operations Command’s Mission Sustainment Team pathfinding initiative. 

“The purpose of this exercise is to test the capability of the MST to forward deploy from a staging base, then establish a forward operating base where there’s no base operating support provided,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Joseph Thomas, 27 SOMSG MST 1 director of operations. “From there, we forward deploy to contingency locations, and operate and sustain them simultaneously.“

The MST concept brings small teams of Airmen together from 19 support career fields. The teams then train and work together at their home installation, and deploy together to provide short-term operations support in austere conditions. 

“We’re providing mission sustainment support, and we’re truly capitalizing on multi-capable Airmen skills not only within the MST,” said Thomas. “We take those skills and transfer them to the other personnel that are operating with us on site. Everybody has multiple roles and jobs.”

While Airmen are still specialists in their original career fields, MST members learn skills from other job specialties. This allows the MST to be small while still providing full short-term operational support.

“Essentially we’re jacks of all trades,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nestor Albalos, 27 SOMSG MST 1 Deployed Air Ground Response element team leader. “I’ve found myself doing anything from driving a forklift to operating a single-pallet expeditionary kitchen and tray-ration heater, to heating, ventilation and air conditioning [work].”

Creating small teams of multi-proficient Airmen comes with unique challenges and opportunities to innovate.

“Our biggest lesson learned with every single exercise that we’ve conducted to test and validate this concept has been: mission planning,” said Thomas. “We’re bringing Airmen together from 19 different functional areas, and when you bring them together, one: we have to develop a common level of understanding, and two: we have to develop those mission-planning skills that are not inherent to those jobs to ensure that we are integrated with aviation and special tactics.”

With the validation exercise complete, AFSOC leaders will now decide whether or not 27 SOMSG Det. 1 will become a full squadron. Leaders have not made that determination at this time. 

“It’s still a new concept,” said Albalos. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, but I think we’re taking steps in the right direction.”