NJANG’s KC-135, F-16 wings exercise “Jersey ACEs”

  • Published
  • By New Jersey Air National Guard Public Affairs

The New Jersey Air National Guard’s 108th Wing and 177th Fighter Wing conducted their first Agile Combat Employment (ACE) exercise between Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., and Muñiz Air National Guard Base, Puerto Rico, Jan. 21-23.

The two Wings’ Airmen recently returned from counterinsurgency deployments, so the exercise was designed to shift their focus to near-peer threats and the Air Force’s new “ACE” scheme of maneuver.

The training, part of a month-long series of exercises, was designed to enhance the combat readiness of the 108th’s KC-135R Stratotanker crews from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and the 177th’s F-16C Fighting Falcon maintainers, pilots and logisticians from the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, N.J.

One of Jersey ACEs’ features was how the KC-135R Stratotankers, themselves, were refueled. In hot pit refueling, the K135R  is fueled immediately after landing, while the aircraft keeps one engine running. Without shutting down the aircraft or any of its systems, the 108th Wing aircraft rapidly returned to the skies to maintain support of air operations.

“Hot pit refueling offers a much quicker turnaround time and reduces the ability of the enemy to target us as we maneuver through the region,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Brito, 108th Wing. “Because of the smaller footprint, we can take on gas, as well as deliver fuel at a location quickly, then move on.”

“The New Jersey Air National Guard wasted no time in embracing ACE and forging innovative approaches,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Kennedy, commander, NJANG. “The 108th and 177th built upon decades of partnership to conduct novel refueling techniques between the KC-135s and F-16s. Our Airmen rapidly projected combat power all while improving their readiness for success in future conflicts.” 

In the interest of agility, other features of the Jersey ACEs exercise included shrinking equipment and manpower requirements and developing junior Multi-Capable Airmen.

Airmen are trained in disciplines outside of their normal day-to-day duties, evolving them into a force of Multi-Capable Airmen, all the while improving mission readiness and increasing capabilities for operating in difficult environments, or responding to short-notice deployments.

“The exercise was deliberately designed for our junior officers and our junior enlisted Airmen—to increase their exposure to ACE concepts and the tasks of other Air Force specialty codes,” said Col. Derek B. Routt, 177th Fighter Wing commander. “At Atlantic City, we have 96 different Air Force specialty codes. We are challenging our Airmen to think differently, take on multiple different jobs.”

Tech. Sgt. Isaias Jorge, trained as a munitions systems specialist with the 177th Fighter Wing and traditionally responsible for overseeing assembly, storage, inspections, and shipment of weaponry related to the F-16C, received official training within the Aircraft Armament Systems career field during the exercise.

“Essentially, we load the weapons on the aircraft, arm the aircraft, and send it away,” said Jorge.  

According to both Wing commanders, the Guard is uniquely positioned to develop Multi-Capable Airmen.

“I want to focus on the exact nature of Citizen-Airmen,” said Col. John M. Cosgrove, 108th Wing commander. “If you look at the 108th Wing, we have about 800 part-timers. We have law enforcement or medical personnel, who do that full time, and then on drill weekends, they are maintainers, or they work in operations. Just by the nature of Citizen-Airmen, we are Multi-Capable Airmen.”

“While we accept some risk with that shift,” said Routt, “It does create that flexibility, it does create that agility – in the name – Agile Combat Employment.”