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920th RQW enhance tactics for combat in contested environments

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

The 920th Rescue Wing assessed and validated combat applications developed over the past two years during their annual FURY HORIZON 22 exercise here Feb. 5.

In a scenario replicating Indo-Pacific region major combat operations, 300 military personnel were isolated on a remote island used for agile combat employment (ACE) in the heart of a contested area of interest. An enemy element harassed the personnel and threatened seizure of the island and exploitation of its ACE mission-sustainment personnel. A rescue force-heavy recovery task force consisting of 64 Guardian Angel, eight HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters and five HC-130J Combat King II aircraft were employed to conduct a rescue assault on the point of incident.              

Central Florida weather proved true to the nature of the Pacific when high winds, low cloud coverage and rain challenged the wing in mission planning and execution for the exercise duration.

“The friction from inclement weather provided both a challenge and strength to our tactics. We capitalized on the relentless weather and it refined our combat capability. We pushed human and system limits which illuminated options previously untested,” said Col. John Dobbin, 920th RQW commander.

More than 500 wing personnel participated in the multi-day, multi-location exercise designed to develop, assess and validate war fighting tactics, techniques and procedures of multi-capable Airmen in combat sustainment, aircraft maintenance, and operations.

Designated learning objectives included reacting to dynamic threats, tactical command post battle tracking, multi-discipline fires support coordination in a time-constrained planning environment, personnel accountability in a contested movement, casualty care and triage, tactical combat casualty care, extended life support of casualties and transfer of casualties from a tactical medical augmentation team (TMAT) to higher-level medical facilities at a forward operating base.

TMAT is a new tactic, technique and procedure developed by the wing’s two aeromedical staging squadrons (ASTS). The ASTS Airmen identified that Guardian Angel pararescuemen are often extended great distances on missions and have limited patient care capabilities while in flight. In a non-linear battle space, or island-hopping environment, keeping specialty teams like a TMAT far forward in the battle space ensures higher probability of a ‘golden-hour’ response in highly-contested areas. The model utilizes an emergency medicine, critical care or anesthesia physician, nurse, and flight paramedic.

As joint force air-component commanders leverage ACE to provide resilient, agile and survivable power projection it is possible an initial contingency location could be cut off isolating the forces. The rescue force-heavy can conduct a reinforcement or large-scale extrication of isolated personnel in a contested environment when in previous engagements a trained and ready option did not exist.   

Prior to the rescue assault, mission sustainment personnel from the 920th Mission Support Group received part-task-training on tactical field skills. Airmen conducted field classes on radio procedures, salute reporting, troop movement in contested areas, and land orientation/navigation. After sunset came establishment of encampment security, a meal of ready-to-eat rations and set-up of dispersed field bivouacs. The setting was perfect for continued training in night vision goggles and nighttime tactical considerations for security and protection with zero illumination and intense darkness from cloud coverage.

"We were able to fold in some great multi-capable Airman training with our non-flying units by inserting security forces and mission sustainment personnel overnight to present the challenge of a large isolated force requiring extraction to prevent exploitation. Rapidly changing elements like the weather were great training for our rescue force-heavy," said Lt. Col. John Lowe, Fusion Cell director.

FURY HORIZON 22 demonstrated the rescue force-heavy as a formidable option for a theater commander and readiness of the wing’s mission to plan, lead and conduct military rescue operations and missions to deny competitors and adversaries exploitation of isolated personnel.

“Our mission is to deny competitors exploitation of isolated personnel. While the ultimate goal is to rescue, we are prepared to fight, reinforce and deny exploitation until extraction is possible,” said Col. Dobbin.

The HORIZON series of wing exercises are held throughout the year at group and wing levels. They bring together the combined knowledge of the entire wing to focus tactics on executing their mission anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.