VOLK FIELD, Wisc. - Airmen from the 133rd Airlift Wing in St. Paul, Minnesota started their summer by completing a ten-day Large Readiness Exercise (LRE) aimed at hardening the warrior’s mindset and preparing for the threats of near-peer adversaries.
“The threat the U.S. military is facing is evolving, so we have to adapt how we operate,” said U.S. Air Force Col. James Cleet, Commander, 133rd Airlift Wing. “This starts with training. Airmen exercised the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept in a contested and degraded environment. Gone are the days of deploying to large main operating bases. We must be prepared for the future threat.”
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col Marc Stok and his team of Wing Inspectors spent over a year planning multiple scenarios for the ten-day exercise.
“We had 56 Wing Inspection Team augmentees for the Inspector General, to include two full shifts at the White Cell where all ten days of the exercise were managed using representatives who are Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) from every organization across the Wing,” said Stok. “Our exercise plan had 550 lines of injected events.”
To add to the complexity, these events occurred across six locations: 133rd Airlift Wing, Camp Ripley, Volk Field, Fort McCoy, Young Landing Zone on the Tomah Range, and Guam.
Conditions were frequently degraded to challenge the ability of the Wing to respond to threats from a simulated aggressive, peer-level enemy force to responds to a simulated plane crash. Many Airmen were required to step outside of their core Air Force specialty in order to accomplish the mission, a critical component to ACE referred to as “Multi-Capable Airmen.”
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kim Nyuyen experienced the challenges firsthand, “I was tasked in a position that I don't normally fill, then got pulled and adapted into a new role again. While challenging, it was a good experience and serves as a reminder that we have a mission to complete and jobs to do.”
As the 133rd Airlift Wing continues to specialize in the C-130 Hercules mission, it is critical for the Wing Commander and senior leadership of the Minnesota National Guard to have a clear picture of the Wing’s capabilities and the readiness of its members to deploy and operate in any environment.
Cleet concluded, “The Airmen were definitely challenged. From ramp up on June 12 through the return of the last C-130 on June 17, it’s probably easier to list what they didn’t face versus what they did.”