The Maryland Air National Guard (MDANG) conducted Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) training while exercising Agile Combat Employment (ACE) during Exercise Sunshine Rescue 23, January 19-28, 2023, at the Savannah Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC).
Airmen from the 175th Maintenance Group and A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots assigned to the 104th Fighter Squadron joined multiple Air Force units from across the country at the CRTC, which is co-located at the 165th Airlift Wing base and is commonly referred to as the Air Dominance Center.
Sunshine Rescue is a National Guard Bureau special focused event that executed CSAR capabilities with leading edge ground force tactics, techniques, and procedures, while utilizing advanced command and control technologies.
“Our focus was on traditional and non-traditional CSAR and integrating with a lot of different units,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Fong, an A-10 pilot and officer-in-charge MDANG participation in the exercise. “This exercise pushed the envelope, and we did things a little bit different in a contested environment by utilizing more advanced communications capabilities specifically with the ground players.”
During the exercise, Tactical Ground Control Party Airmen communicated with Air Force Reserve HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters and the Maryland A-10s to conduct simulated rescue missions.
While on the ground, Airmen from the 175th Maintenance Group tested their ability to conduct ACE techniques during integrated combat turns (ICTs) at Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia. An ICT is an ACE concept that enables the simultaneous re-arming and refueling of a running aircraft to reduce the aircrew’s ground time and quickly get them back in the air to execute missions.
“During this exercise our main station was Martin State Airport (in Maryland) where Airmen were generating aircraft and we moved 10 aircraft down to Savannah to operate for a number of days throughout the exercise,” said Fong. “At the same time we were performing ICTs out of Hunter Airfield, which required us to do all of the logistics and muscle movements to make it happen to create another node that the enemy would have to account for whether it would be to defend or target.”
According to U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Garett Ruby, Sunshine Rescue 23 exercise director, Airmen from the 175th Wing worked with assets from the 920th Rescue Wing, 165th Airlift Wing, and two Air Force Special Warfare Squadrons to accomplish CSAR in a high-threat environment with “over-horizon communication capabilities.”
ACE is a proactive and reactive operational scheme of maneuver executed within threat timelines to increase survivability while generating combat power for operations in modern warfighting. When applied correctly, ACE complicates the enemy’s targeting process, creates political and operational dilemmas for the enemy, and creates flexibility for friendly forces.
“The Air Dominance Center is the perfect location to host events for Agile Combat Employment due to its unique geographic location,” said Ruby. “The Southeast United States provides the best airspace overland and overwater to train to the INDO-PACOM theater.”