Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Grissom takes flight in Bold Quest to improve battlefield communication

by Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner
434th ARW Public Affairs

9/24/2013 - GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. -- By definition, a bold quest is a courageous pursuit of a valued objective, and to many servicemembers no objective could be more valued than solid battlefield communication.

Grissom Airmen endeavored upon such a pursuit to improve military communications during Bold Quest 13.2 by taking flight to refuel coalition aircraft as well as provide logistical support for a NATO E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft here Sept. 4-24.

Bold Quest is a coalition capability demonstration and assessment series held on a recurring basis. Among the technologies being demonstrated in BQ 13.2 were various types of radios, tactical data links and network equipment used to support joint fires, joint terminal attack control, personnel recovery and other missions.

"Bold Quest is an exercise that tests coordination and identification systems between airborne assets and ground troops," said Lt. Col. Edward J. Dieringer Jr., 434th Operations Support Squadron plans officer, who spearheaded Grissom's involvement in the BQ exercise.

"(We) try to get all systems to talk the same language," explained German Air Force Capt. Martin Vogt, an AWACS fighter locator. "It's not going to happen, but what you need to do is find out where you have commonalities, where you can exchange that data and where you need to improvise."

Joining U.S. military and civilian members from the four military service branches were those from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

The majority of BQ 13.2 was held at and over Camp Atterbury - Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex, Ind., convening warfighters, developers and analysts in a unique, problem-solving environment.

A 434th Air Refueling Wing KC-135R Stratotanker and E-3A flew out of Grissom while fighter aircraft, such as French Air Force Mirage 2000Ds, U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt IIs, U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets and U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers, flew out of the 122nd Fighter Wing in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Grissom's refueling operations extended the flight times of the French fighters just as they would in a real-world operation, allowing for a longer and more thorough testing and assessment of new systems, said Dieringer.

The AWACS was described by Vogt as a command post in the air that acts as a medium between headquarters and the troops on the ground. He said their mission during BQ 13.2 was to both supplement other coalition military force assets as well as experiment with communicating to those forces with a new internet protocol communication system.

"We have a IP (communications) upgrade that we'd like to test out here, where we are trying to get an IP connection into the NATO AWACS," the captain continued. "We need to make sure we can communicate with everybody on the battlefield, and IP connection, nowadays, is the media to go to to do that."

Communicating their enthusiasm, Grissom's aviators said they were excited to be a part of the joint and coalition exercise.

"This is really an awesome experience because it not only helps us keep our positive relationships with other countries, it makes sure we can operate as one team," said 1st Lt. Jason Bireley, a 72nd Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 pilot who flew during BQ 13.2 to refuel French Mirages.

And, Bireley said, operating as one joint and coalition team in an exercise environment is important because that is how real-world operations take place on the modern battlefield.

"This exercise helps iron out our flaws and gives people and heads-up as to what goes on out there in the real world," added the lieutenant, who has served since 2002 as both a KC-135 crew chief and in-flight refueling specialist before becoming a pilot.

Vogt agreed, stating that interoperability and compatibility will be key to future mission success.

"In the future it's always going to be a multi-nation operation, so you're going to have all these systems that are not normally designed to be compatible, and you want to get them to have a certain compatibility, so that you can exchange data between the different nations, between the different systems," he added.

With Grissom's piece of BQ 13.2 now complete, coalition participants can now reflect on the experience.

"This year's exercise has been successful on many levels," said Dieringer. "(We look forward to seeing) the new systems deployed with troops around the world."

To see that fully come to fruition, Vogt said there is still work to be done, but BQ 13.2 definitely set the coalition partners on the right path for success.

"People are going to go away from here saying, 'yeah, we know what we need to do, we know what we need to fix to get this thing working,'" he said.

Grissom is home to the 434th Air Refueling Wing, the largest KC-135R unit in the Air Force Reserve Command, as well as three Army Reserve units and a Marine Corps communications detachment.

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