302 AW completes expeditionary air base training during Exercise Falcon Thunder

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Justin Norton
  • 302nd Airlift Wing

More than 300 302d Airlift Wing Airmen participated in Exercise Falcon Thunder during a field training scenario from June 20-23 at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado.

The exercise tested the wing’s readiness to deploy as an expeditionary air base to an unfamiliar location and operate with minimal leadership oversight. They simulated an environment with limited communications capabilities during disaster and humanitarian relief operations.

“Exercise Falcon Thunder was a chance to prove to the wing commander, 22nd Air Force and Air Force Reserve Command that the 302 AW is ready and certified to deploy and that we’re ready to go,” said Col. Brett Schumer, 302 AW deputy commander.

Participants weren’t told in advance what to expect during the exercise. They were presented with surprise scenarios such as defending the installation from assaults, caring for injured and wounded civilians roleplayed by members of the Development and Training Flight, responding to chemical attacks and more.

The exercise kicked off with a deployment processing line and participants were transported to an area of the installation established in advance as a training area, dubbed Camp Bogey. 302d Logistics Readiness Squadron drivers drove storage containers out to the field containing equipment necessary for Airmen to operate as agile combat support units.

“Wherever we go we’re not going to be sure what facilities we’ll have at our disposal,” Schumer said. “Our previous structure of going to built-up bases we’ve used for a decade or more is becoming outdated. Now we’re training to go to more austere environments where we’re bringing everything that we need with us. Where we can set up is based on the space available and then we fix problems as we go.”

Airmen from different wing squadrons worked together assembling tents for operations while 302d Civil Engineer Squadron crews routed power to enable mission-essential capabilities. A 302d Communications Flight team set up network capabilities the first day using one of their Starlink kits and 302nd Security Forces Squadron defenders identified entry control points and fortified positions to manage access to the camp. 302d Force Support Squadron specialists also set up a single-pallet expeditionary kitchen to ensure everyone was fed on-site and ready to train.

Crews worked together to accomplish tasks throughout the exercise. During a mass casualty scenario 302 SFS defenders arrived on scene and secured the area while administering Tactical Combat Casualty Care to wounded role-players. Once the area was safe, the defenders escorted 302d Aeromedical Staging Squadron medics and patients to nearby tents. The medics treated, stabilized, and prepared the wounded for elevated stages of care.

At one point during the exercise the camp was hit with a simulated attack. Airmen helped each other don protective gear before hunkering down and waiting for the all-clear. Afterward they sent out teams to inspect the surrounding area for unexploded ordnance and evidence of chemical agents.

Scenarios were reported up and down the chain of command throughout the event. Airmen coordinated information through a unit control center at Camp Bogey monitored by commanders and key leaders at a nearby command post. Senior subject matter experts from each section monitored operations and inserted different training objectives to test the response and effectiveness of their teams.

“Overall, we did well,” said Master Sgt. Carlos Gonzalez, 302 AW exercise coordinator. “It was a good opportunity to see everyone test their mission essential tasks and work together with each other to solve problems establishing an airbase.”

At the airfield nearby, 302d Maintenance Group maintainers ensured the continued operations of C-130H Hercules aircraft involved in the exercise. During the chemical strike, maintenance teams practiced aircraft decontamination procedures while 302d Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment Airmen processed flight crews through a personnel decontamination line.

39th Aerial Port Squadron Airmen also practiced loading an R-11 fuel truck into the cargo bay of a C-130 aircraft under the guidance of loadmasters. At a separate aircraft nearby, 34th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight paramedics trained 302 ASTS teams on how to properly load litter patients into the bay of a C-130 outfitted for patient care.

“Our strong points were communication and an ability to adapt and overcome,” said Schumer. “Everybody worked in sequence to get every mission set done. Our Airmen are comfortable making decisions and getting the mission done with the resources at their disposal.”

The exercise draws upon lessons learned from Exercise Overtorque 2023, the wing’s initial readiness exercise, where Airmen were tasked with working together in a similar fashion to accomplish the mission in an unfamiliar environment.

“We want to encourage units to keep training,” said Lt. Col. Jeremy Matyas, 302 AW director of inspections. “Both at the unit level and integrating with other squadrons outside of their group. Training together like this helps fosters relationships and further develops trust that’s already there.”