Friday, November 17, 2017

Air National Guard Strikes Hard at ‘Combat Hammer’ Exercise

By Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Shepherd, 132nd Wing, Iowa Air National Guard

DUKE FIELD, Fla., Nov. 17, 2017 — Airmen with Air National Guard units from Texas, New York, Iowa, Ohio, California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and North Dakota supported and piloted MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles during Operation Combat Hammer, the first operational air-to-ground weapons evaluation for the Air National Guard that includes the Reaper.

The Combat Hammer exercise takes place twice each year at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and twice annually at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and is part of the Weapon System Evaluation Program. WSEP has two parts: Combat Hammer evaluates all Air Force air-to-ground weapons, mostly bombs, while Combat Archer evaluates all air-to-air weapons, mostly missiles.

Realistic Training

“WSEP is an opportunity for the Air National Guard to provide our warfighters with ‘as real as it gets’ combat training outside of the combat zone, said Air Force 1st Lt. Josh, WSEP Project Officer for 132nd Wing, Des Moines, Iowa.

The 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group out of Eglin AFB conducted a maritime Weapons System Evaluation Program in the Gulf of Mexico and in Choctawhatchee Bay, Nov. 1-3 and Nov. 6-8. Within the 53rd WEG, the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron is the lead for Combat Hammer.

"As a whole, Combat Hammer has to do that on a much larger scale since we have three to four units here each WSEP. A lot of hours by a lot of people go into making this happen, and it couldn't be done without a whole team effort," said Air Force Maj. Marcus, the assistant director of operations for WSEP at the 86th FWS, Eglin AFB.

Exercise participants this year included F-22 Raptor aircraft, from the 94th Fighter Squadron at Langley, AFB, Virginia; F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, from the 55th Fighter Squadron of Shaw AFB, South Carolina; A-10 Warthog aircraft from the 75th Fighter Squadron of Moody AFB, Georgia; and MQ-9 Reaper UAVs with Air National Guard units from Texas, New York, Iowa, Ohio, California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and North Dakota and the 2nd Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

Approximately 30 boats simulated realistic swarm attack formation maneuvers in the Choctawhatchee Bay while military aircraft targeted them from above to practice simulated “kills” and evaluate the precision-guided munitions.

The 96th Range Control Squadron gathered data from the aircraft, weapons, targets, and a multitude of other range sensors. This combined information provides full situational awareness to the WSEP engineers, allowing them to make real-time decisions on the performance of the various weapons systems.

The exercise also marked the first time an MQ-9 Reaper flew across multiple states back to its home unit instead of being shipped back. The 174th Attack Wing in Syracuse, New York, flew its MQ-9 over 1,200 miles from Duke Field, Florida.

Mattis Reviews Homeland Defense During Colorado Visit

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2017 — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with officials at the National Space Defense Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, yesterday.

The secretary told reporters traveling with him that he wants to have a better understanding of how the United States works with Canada in defense of North America.

“I think the best way to look at it, is we don't look at war as being space war or cyber war. War is war,” he said. “And any kind of conflict in the future could well include cyber or space assets.”

Specifically, Mattis said he wants to understand the various systems used and the role they play in the decision-making process.

North Korea

The main threat right now to the homeland is North Korea and the threats Kim Jong Un poses with his newly developed nuclear capability and the progress the nation is making in developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, the secretary said.

Mattis stressed the United States and its allies must concentrate on defense. “I believe that we have to have good strong defenses with our allies in order to buy time for the diplomats to resolve this situation,” he said.

The United States must work with allies so North Korea understands there is no military option, the secretary said. That will allow diplomats to solve the issue, he said.

“There may be opportunity for talks. If they stop their shooting missiles, stop developing nukes, stop building more nukes, we can talk,” Mattis said.


The secretary also discussed the situation in Afghanistan. The United States, NATO and partner nations have signed on to support Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s four-year plan. Mattis said there are over 100 specific indicators that allies will watch as the plan moves forward.

“Each of those will be measured and we will meet routinely to see how we're making progress on them,” he said. “Remember, the political goal here of the military campaign is reconciliation. The campaign itself, and what we're looking at, will be measures along that path.”

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

Mattis wants to ensure people do not get the idea that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is already defeated. While the “State” part of the group’s title is almost gone, he thinks “anyone who thinks they're down is premature.”

There are small enclaves of ISIS still in the Euphrates River Valley, he said. There is a deconfliction zone that has been worked out. “We're trying to expand those in other areas, the idea being to try to get the fighting stopped,” Mattis said.

In Syria, removal of improvised explosive devices is a high priority, and this will take time as Syrians must train to do this, the secretary said.

“You don't want amateurs doing it,” he said.

Helping people recover, helping refugees come back, ensuring there is clean water and sewage disposal -- all these are things that must be accomplished, Mattis said.

United Nations Plan

All this feeds into a U.N. mandated plan, he said.

“The next steps will have to do with how do you set up a political reconciliation,” Mattis said. “That plan would involve an election of some kind, under international observers. We would be in a position then to only come down when that plan has traction, if there's something going forward, rather than walking out and then looking over our shoulders at all hell breaking loose again. We've got to make certain we turn this over in a responsible way.”

He added, “The diplomats are ready to work on it. The United Nations is ready to work on it. I don't see this taking a long time. At that point, we would see a way forward for Syria.”

Allied Spirit VII Exercise Showcases Integrated Training

By Army Staff Sgt. Kathleen Polanco, 7th Army Training Command

HOHENFELS, Germany, Nov. 17, 2017 — "It's very important for us to train together with our partners," said Col. Arturas Radvilas, the commanding officer of the Lithuanian army’s Motorized Infantry "Griffin" Brigade.

"For us, this is the most important thing because it's a multinational exercise," Radvilas added.

Radvilas is talking about Allied Spirit VII, a 7th Army Training Command-conducted multinational exercise that focuses on tactical interoperability and testing secure communications among NATO members.

The exercise, which began Oct. 30, is being held here until Nov. 22. There are approximately 4,000 participants from 13 nations: Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Working Together

"The importance of Allied Spirit is to bring our NATO partners together in a cohesive exercise where we can test and exercise our alliance together to prove interoperability, have situational understanding, learn tactics and maneuver, and increase our ability to integrate these forces to work together as a full team," said Brig. Gen. Jeff Smiley, the deputy commanding general of the 40th Infantry Division, California Army National Guard.

The three-week exercise integrates different forces into one multinational brigade, with Lithuania taking the lead as the higher command. Lithuania provides mission command of fire support, offensive, defensive and stability tasks, while concurrently operating a command post exercise at the Warfare Training Center in Nemencine, Lithuania.

In the first week, the participating nations spent time getting to know each other's procedures, capabilities and systems through improvised explosive device awareness training, route clearance and vehicle recovery. Some of the other training objectives included media engagements: civilian-military integration; medical training; and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense.

Integrated Training

This integrated training was an invaluable asset for the California Army National Guard unit to take home as the soldiers don't often receive many opportunities to train with allied partners, Smiley said.

"We have a lot of experience in working with law enforcement, fire services, local government, and county and state governments," Smiley said. "Well, those experiences really play out very well over here in this complex environment where we get to interface."

After a week of refresher training, the units familiarized themselves with the training area by moving into their fighting positions as they prepared for the main exercise days to begin.

‘Totally Different’ Training

"It was totally different from what we normally do because most of our training is conducted in Canada on wide-open prairies," said Lt. Col. Jez Lamb, the United Kingdom's 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment Fusiliers, first-time participants in the exercise. "But here, maximum ranges are about 50 meters, so it's very close. We can't form nice open formations, so the whole thing is totally different."

After familiarization with the training area’s terrain, and understanding everyone's involvement and capabilities, the Fusiliers and the rest of the multinational brigade were ready to take on the opposing forces.

Exercise participants are challenged to apply their training and integrate their skills to conduct recons, dismounts, attacks and defensive operations as one interoperable fighting force.

"This is a unique opportunity for us to be trained here," Radvilas said. "Being able to learn from our partners and understand them is very important for us."