By Chief Master Sgt. Robert Shankleton, 217th Air Operations Group
/ Published May 15, 2014
The 217 Air Operations Group (AOG) recently hosted the Distributed Mission Operations Center's VIRTUAL FLAG 14-2(VF 14-2), a ten day exercise involving over 70 units and including representatives from all four services. Here at Battle Creek, there were over 80 participants, with the majority of 35 visitors being from active duty Army, Air Force and Air Force Reserve units. The majority of units involved in the exercise operated from their home stations across ten time zones and assets were linked together virtually, allowing for distributed operations in a joint scenario. By utilizing this virtual training method, VF 14-2 was executed for approximately 1/10 the cost of customary Joint live fly training exercise of this scale.
The overarching objective of VF 14-2 was to exercise our Integrated Air and Missile Defense in a contested airspace over land and sea. To demonstrate this capability, Army air defense systems, a naval carrier group, Marine aviation units, and Air Force assets were melded into a single command structure. With the scenario being heavily weighted towards defense and containment, the interoperability of U.S. forces was particularly tested. Multiple alerts and warnings were issued during the scenario, requiring all services to work together to counter a variety of enemy attacks on U.S. and coalition forces. Also demonstrated was the ability of Air Force and Naval assets to coordinate and execute a War at Sea campaign. Forces participating spanned the U.S. military arsenal. Everything from Army Patriot batteries to Navy carrier groups to all Air Force aircraft were tasked to play their respective parts, and the de-confliction, direction, and control was located in the 217 AOG. Objectives met in this exercise will be shared with Joint warfare planners at key Combatant Commands. Many of the lessons learned will also provide a baseline for future force structure decisions.
For the 217th's part of VF 14-2, this exercise was a chance to demonstrate our ability to execute command and control of air assets in any AOR. *Colonel Sean Southworth, Commander of the 217 AOG, "Hosting Virtual Flag has been an absolute pleasure. The exercise show cased our ability to execute our wartime mission from Home Station and that was exciting for everyone in the unit. But for me, having the entire Air Component - Air Guard, Air Reserves and Active Duty working with our Joint partners, demonstrated the level of team effort required for the Joint fight of the future. I am ready to host this exercise again, at the earliest opportunity." With the capability of Command and Control being executed from Battle Creek, the need to be forward deployed to be in the fight is no longer a requirement.