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Agile Gator exercise: Making 52nd Combat Communications Squadron mission ready

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office

The 52nd Combat Communications Squadron is always ready anytime, anywhere. The ability to perform at an optimal level for a range of missions in any environment - from humanitarian relief to full-scale conflict - comes from a lot of practice and participation in exercises, like Agile Gator 23-4, which took place Oct. 16-27, at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.

“This is a test of our combat capability,” said Maj. Nicholas Riascos, 52nd CBCS Director of Operations. “Agile Gator is our Air Force Force Generation 100-level, unit-resourced and unit-led exercise. The purpose is to prepare, train, and employ combat communication forces and capabilities in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous contested environment. This exercise also tests our ability to respond to a no-notice task and incorporates mission partners across the installation to deploy our forces.”

This was a collaborative effort which involved the 5th Combat Communications Support Squadron, 78th Air Base Wing and 461st Operation Support Squadron. By having various entities participate, Riascos said it provided realistic scenarios for all phases of the   deployment drill process.

During the exercise, Airmen built and inspected pallets for a simulated deployment and assembled communication kits.

The evaluation certified Airmen for AFFORGEN, which builds forces ready to engage adversaries from competition through crisis, and, if deterrence fails, prevail in conflict.

“The Airmen tested on three broad components,” said Lt. Col. Adam Cross, Commander, 52nd CBCS. “First, the team’s ability to establish communications; the goal is to always do this in under our employment standard timelines. Second, Airmen tested their battlefield skills when faced with injects to simulate enemy activity, such as radio jamming, chemical weapons, missile attacks, and direct small arms engagement.

“Finally, it tests our leaders’ ability to conduct mission command,” Cross added, “continuing operations through decentralized execution with commander’s intent. We are equipping our Airmen with these skills so they can confidently execute their mission and win the fight against any potential adversary.”

The 52nd CBCS falls under the umbrella of the 5th Combat Communications Group, which is composed of the 5th Combat Communications Support Squadron, 51st Combat Communications Squadron and the 85th Engineering Installation Squadron, which is based at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

“Success is measured in large part by timelines, in which our Airmen need to be able to set up their various communications suites and bring services online,” said Cross. “Our quality assurance personnel and operations team monitored progress throughout the event and provided feedback to inform what is ultimately my decision as the squadron commander to certify team members as mission ready or not.”   

According to the Department of the Air Force, there are four phases of the AFFORGEN model, which occur over a 24-month period and in a three-phase model.

-Available to Commit – Similar to today’s normal deployment phase. Airmen have achieved peak readiness and are either deployed or ready to deploy. Some examples include Immediate Response or 9-1-1 forces.
-Reset – In this phase, the unit returns from deployment or is removed from the Available to Commit phase and focused on reintegration and reconstitution. Airmen reintegrate with families, take post deployment leave, re-establish currencies and get back to basic proficiency.
-Prepare – Building toward peak unit readiness while shielded from deployment. Airmen complete advanced upgrade training and multi-mission unit package training.
-Ready – Working to achieve a high-level of readiness above the unit level for the high-end fight environment. Units come together from multiple wings to train and complete certifying events such as flag exercise, Neptune Events, Weapon School Integration and other Large Force Exercises.

“This type of exercise has been traditionally conducted once a year in the past,” said Master Sgt. James Stacy, 52nd CBCS Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of Operations. “Under the new AFFORGEN model, unit-level certification events happen in the ‘Reset’ and ‘Prepare’ phases of the cycle to ensure it maintains a high state of readiness.”