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Air Commandos get real-world experience at White Sands

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez
  • 27th Special Operations Public Affairs
The 26th Special Tactics Squadron trained alongside 27th Special Operations Wing units while conducting a full mission profile at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M., earlier this month.

The training tested the Air Commandos’ abilities to react to adverse conditions and complete a mission as a team in an unknown location.

“The purpose of a FMP is to incorporate all our assets we have at Cannon Air Force Base with our joint partners on the ground and the 26th STS Airmen,” said Capt. Jon Vaage, 27th Special Operations Group strike branch chief of group weapons and tactics. “We combine our skill sets and execute missions as we do downrange.”

Unlike most exercises, the mission planning was integrated during the exercise instead of being done beforehand to better simulate real-world situations. The Air Commandos had to rely on multiple agencies to accomplish their objectives.

One of their missions was to secure, establish and control an airfield –located in contested or austere territory—so aircraft could land and refuel safely in a forward area refueling point. Special Tactics
Airmen led much of the planning for ground maneuver and air integration portions of the mission.

“The night of execution phase, Special Tactics Airmen were transported on an MC-130J and performed a High Altitude High Opening airdrop,” said a combat controller from the 26th STS. “They started controlling the airspace while under the canopy of their parachutes.”

Once they jumped onto the drop zone, the ST Airmen secured, surveyed and marked the FARP. A U-28 then landed to be refueled by an MC-130J at the FARP. The ST Airmen became the air traffic control tower for the runway, running the airfield much like they would in a deployed environment.

This capability was previously tested in a FMP held in Green River, UT, in July.

“The FMP enabled all players a chance to test their readiness to perform a Special Operations mission in a training environment,” said the combat controller. “The biggest success is each person involved gained invaluable experience that they can now carry over downrange.”