WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
Airmen from the 442d Fighter Wing participated in Exercise Ozark Thunder 21-01. In anticipation of the exercise, Saturday, June 5, 2021, began with a “Road to War” brief. The brief provided members with information about the simulated incoming threats so they may prepare their units. Members also received Ability to Survive and Operate (ATSO) training led by Airmen from the 919th Special Operations Wing who traveled from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida to assist with the exercise.
The three-day exercise officially began Sunday, June 6. Airmen operated as if they were in a deployed environment. To assist with the simulation of a deployed environment, Airmen were required to have their chemical and biological protective gear accessible at all times.
During the exercise, Airmen faced challenges through various simulated scenarios. Members received notification of different alarm conditions through the Air Force’s mass notification system, chain of command, and through the giant voice system on base.
Airmen were evaluated on their ability perform mission essential tasks, accountability procedures, post-attack reconnaissance sweeps, and self-aid buddy care in various levels of chemical gear.
Members of the Inspector General’s office and safety office for the 442 FW observed the exercise to monitor how well the Airmen reacted to the scenarios. Additionally, subject matter experts from the different units formed the Wing Inspection Team to determine the strengths and weakness of their respective units during the exercise.
Senior Master Sgt. Sarah Bower, the superintendent for the 442 FW IG office, was one of the individuals who worked behind the scenes during the exercise.
“[The exercise required] Airmen to conduct their daily tasks, but to do so even when wearing protective chemical ensembles,” said Bower.
“The use and wear of [Mission-Oriented Protective Posture] gear has been noted by Headquarters Air Force IG as a special interest item, meaning it’s important to the Air Force that all its airmen have the ‘Ability to Survive and Operate’ in a chemically degraded environment,” explained Bower. “We have to be able to complete our mission even if aggressors have the capability to launch chemical or biological weapons.”
The main purpose of this exercise was to demonstrate readiness and capabilities in a variety of contested environments.
“If the wing’s airmen know more about how to don MOPP gear, respond to air and ground attacks, and continue mission essential tasks throughout the duration of an attack, that is success in our book,” said Bower. “We also want unit commanders to feel that they have proven their readiness capabilities.”
The exercise served as a learning opportunity for the entire 442 FW and it helped achieve the wing’s mission statement: Citizen Airmen ready to Attack, Defend, Support, and Sustain.