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105th Airmen support new security forces training iteration at Red Flag

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  • By 1st Lt. Briana Ross

10 New York Air National Guardsmen from the 105th Airlift Wing’s 205th Base Defense Squadron trained in cutting edge base defense operational concepts at Exercise Red Flag 24-1, hosted at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, from Jan. 15-26, 2024.

Exercise Red Flag was originally intended for aircrews to gain the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment. Mission partners, including security forces personnel have since been incorporated for hands-on training in defending operating bases and contingency locations in austere environments.

"The security forces world is changing their focus from protecting established bases to being able to protect wherever our assets may be,” said Capt. Steven Morris, acting 205th Base Defense Squadron commander. “It's a lot more focused on those expeditionary skills, Army tactics & doctrine, and using more joint concepts, such as being organized as a platoon rather than a flight.”

Base defense personnel were included in the exercise to develop skills needed for Agile Combat Employment. ACE is the Air Force’s new operational concept that focuses on generating air combat power from established bases, as well as remote locations that provide temporary basing options for refueling and rearmament of aircraft closer to the fight.

“There's no fence line. There's maybe no infrastructure. There's maybe some host nation, partner defense force. But how do you provide area security to protect those resources from indirect fire, mortars, things that are coming from miles away?" Morris continued. “It also emphasizes ‘mission command’, the principle of operating autonomously based on higher level intent when your communications are cut off and can’t receive follow-on orders.”

The 205th was joined by 24 Airmen from Guard units in Kansas, Ohio and Florida, as well as the 205th's active-duty partner, the 820th Base Defense Group based at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

“If we’re going to deploy, we’re going to integrate with other units, so it’s beneficial for many reasons to train together,” said Airman 1st Class Kaitlin McGovern, a defender assigned to the 205th Base Defense Squadron serving as a radiotelephone operator during the exercise.

The Airmen spent eight days in a remote location on the National Test and Training Range in Nevada, creating and defending multiple simulated contingency locations. This involved 24-hour operations, digging out battle positions, setting up machine gun nests and entrenching themselves in the desert.

“When it's a field exercise, and you have to sleep out there and you have different conditions that you're not used to, it's really the only way to prepare for what could happen in a real world scenario,” McGovern explained. “It's all-around training and you don't necessarily know what's coming next.”

They faced challenges from simulated enemy combatants and communications losses all while enduring their cold, harsh environment.

“You go to Las Vegas and you don't expect it to be 20 degrees with two inches of snow and 50 mph wind gusts, but that's exactly what we got,” Morris recalled. “Operating cold and wet can easily make you combat ineffective, so it makes you consider how to prioritize precious space and weight in your rucksack.”

The 205th has participated in this version of Red Flag once before in July 2023, fending off the extreme heat rather than cold. The Air Force Security Forces Center seeks to make Red Flag one of the seminal exercises to validate the career field’s education and training plan.

“We’re helping to pave the way for future exercises and training, at Red Flag and beyond,” McGovern said.