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Wing exercise focuses tactics on contested maritime and jungle environments

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ian Phillips
  • 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

In a remote and desolate field, 100 one-person tents seemed to appear out of nowhere as the 920th Rescue Wing established a forward operating base to conduct field-exercise Distant Horizon, an event designed to validate tactics, techniques, and procedures of personnel recovery and agile combat employment in the Indo-Pacific region.

In less than 24 hours, 920th RQW personnel mobilized, maneuvered across 4,700 miles, established a forward operating base, and postured to conduct rescue raid events as a self-sustained encampment for seven days. The Rescue Force - Light package is a combined arms team of ground and air combatants. The wing also projects heavy and medium packages designed for assaults on defended points of incident.

“For seven days last week we validated a new force presentation model focused on rescue in contested maritime and jungle environments. We succeeded at an autonomous operation that capitalized on speed, maneuver, and unpredictability while we executed it halfway around the world from our point of origin,” said Col. John Dobbin, 920 RQW commander.

Strategic airlift from the 433d Airlift Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas and the 436th Airlift Wing at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, conducted rapid transport of the Rescue Force to the remote island location that is part of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division training area. The Rescue Force then self-deployed a further distance to their forward operating base.

At the exercise forward operating base and remote initial contingency locations, combatants focused on major combat operation scenarios encompassing kinetic applications in offense and defense for the Rescue Force and their encampment.

“Initial contingency locations keep us mobile and unpredictable. This projects our fighting power deeper in the battlespace and enables the Rescue Force to seize the combat tempo from an enemy,” said Col. Dobbin.

Establishing a bare base in the middle of nowhere took coordination between every unit of the wing and select joint partners. Everyone was essential, from operational personnel to security and communications, but perhaps most important was the wing’s Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen team who fed the force with two hot meals a day, at times in a relentless physical environment.

“People are operating beyond their AFSC and testing their thresholds in depravity, exhaustion, and problem solving. Definitely out of their comfort zones and all to make us a more lethal fighting force,” said a Rescue Force Senior Enlisted Leader.

Environmental conditions challenged all involved. Temperatures and strong wind gusts during the day increased demands on logistics and sustainment; providing excellent opportunity to refine standard operating procedures of the combat sustainment team. 

“The exercise allowed us to practice skills we have been developing over the last year with a combined arms team and validate our key tactics techniques and procedures. We were highly successful in validating these TTPs,” said the Rescue Force commander.

Distant Horizon is an annual exercise that, combined with their annual Fury Horizon exercise, prepares the wing for priority requirements around the world. Vigilant readiness garnered through these exercises and others supports the wing’s mission to plan, lead, and conduct military rescue operations and missions to deny competitors and adversaries exploitation of isolated personnel.