Buckley AFB showcases readiness with mass-deployment exercise

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Holden S. Faul
  • 460th Space Wing Public Affairs

For the first time in nearly a decade, the 460th Space Wing held a Phase I, mass deployment exercise, at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, beginning July 29, 2019. The focus of the exercise was to demonstrate and validate the wing’s capability to deploy mass numbers of service members with minimal notification, while learning what aspects of the process need improvement. Additionally, exercises of this capacity bolster the overall readiness of the 460th SW and ultimately, the Air Force as a component of the Department of Defense.

During a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in March 2019, Dr. Heather Wilson, former Secretary of the Air Force, and Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff, explained that the U.S. Air Force has improved readiness by 15 percent over the past two years.

To ensure the Air Force continues to improve, Goldfein has directed a service-wide refocus on operational readiness, and the Panther View (PV) 19-03 Exercise was in direct response to this directive. In addition to being the world’s premier missile warning wing, the 460th SW is also charged with being responsive to combatant commander requirements from across the globe. The wing’s squadron commanders have taken on the difficult task of meeting both mission elements with the resources and personnel entrusted to them by Col. Devin Pepper, 460th SW commander.

This exercise started with 133 deployment taskings, spread throughout all units within the 460th SW.

“When we started this exercise, just like any other real-world tasking, my team took the wing’s no-fail mission into consideration,” said Tech. Sgt. Dwayne Okelberry, 460th Logistics Readiness Squadron NCO in charge of logistic plans. “Based on the no-fail mission, commanders may not be able to support every tasking that comes to the wing, but every effort is made to fill the downrange mission capability before pushing a reclama to the major command to have it resourced to another wing.”

After the wing determined how many personnel could deploy without risking the in-place mission, pre-deployment training began. Selected deployers completed over 10 hours of Computer-Based Training, hands-on weapons qualification and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) training.  While the 460th Mission Support Group drives the bulk of deployer preparation, these warfighters are also pushed through a rigorous multi-day review by the 460th Medical Group to validate they are fit to fight.

The realistic approach to PV 19-03 precluded the standard simulation seen in past exercises.  In addition to firing for weapons qualification, printing updated dog tags, reviewing Virtual Record of Emergency Data, and completing CBRN requirements, the entire list of 106 deployers — physically available for deployment — were reviewed for any Individual Medical Readiness elements that were approaching expiration. This laser focus on individual readiness resulted in an increase of “GREEN” in the wing’s overall IMR status. 

After a review by all the functional areas, 40 deployers were cleared to process through the personnel deployment functional line, which is the final review of all pre-deployment requirements before departing the installation.

“Over the past several years, readiness has taken a back seat and, fortunately, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force has revived the discussion, making readiness a top priority,” said Maj. Latasha Bone, 460th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander and deployed member for the exercise. “Considering the 460th SW missile warning mission, traditionally, we’ve been accustomed to low numbers of deployments, so it was essential that we exercised our mass deployment process; we have to be prepared for the unexpected.”

With the conclusion of PV 19-03 on August 20th, the 460th SW successfully identified many strengths and more importantly, identified areas in need of improvements to the overall process. This exercise validated the wing’s ability to perform in-place or downrange regardless of the mission requirement. Ultimately, Team Buckley remains ready.