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Exercise Silent Arrow demonstrates AFSOC combat versatility in future conflicts

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Candin Muniz
  • 27th Special Operations Wing

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.”