Citizen Air Commandos host Wolf Pack 2022 Exercise

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Dylan Gentile
  • 919th Special Operations Wing

Mosquitos swarmed as Airmen endured the blazing Georgia heat, lugging their heavy gear through the rugged terrain with radios, phones, cellular hotspot devices, antennas and a plethora of communication equipment.

The task for members of the 919th Special Operations Communications Squadron and other participating units during the Wolf Pack 2022 exercise June 4-16, 2022 was to form an integrated force and provide the warfighter a wide range of tactical communications.

“The new Air Force Special Operations Command deployment model wants us to break out of our separate shops and learn from one another to reduce our footprint downrange,” said Master Sgt. David Mitchell, 919th SOCS tactical network operations noncommissioned officer in charge. “We aimed for broader integration with other reserve and guard components to learn their different perspectives and skillsets.”

The austere surroundings outside of Savannah, Ga., on Hunter Army Airfield provided a new and challenging environment for Airmen to demonstrate interoperability across a broad spectrum of communications capabilities.

Assistance from the 117th Air Control Squadron here ensured the communications infrastructure created a dynamic training environment for exercise participants.

“We had a lot of very experienced and knowledgeable instructors who provided us with excellent training,” said Tech. Sgt. Jason Holden, 919th SOCS Radio Frequency transmissions specialist. “It’s not often that all of the flights in the squadron can get together and do something like this.”

While the 919th SOCS coordinated the exercise, communications specialists from the 280th Special Operations Communications Squadron (Dothan, Alabama), the 717th Information Operations Squadron (Hurlburt Field, Florida), and the 353rd Special Operations Support Squadron (Kadena Air base, Japan) also participated in Wolf Pack 2022.

The operational goal of the exercise was to create a radio network to establish internet and radio communications from a central communications hub. Airmen hiked for several miles to locations across the airfield to set up the remote stations.

The combined efforts of the Airmen provided both encrypted and unencrypted phone, internet and radio services in locations without an existing communication infrastructure. This capability creates a link between what is happening in remote locations and combatant commanders responsible for making logistical decisions. The essential lines of communication then make it possible for forces to provide needed supplies and enables troops downrange phone and internet usage.

“In this kind of situation, we would provide a lot of practical services that allows someone to make contact with the outside world,” said Holden. “The capability and infrastructure we offer can help coordinate and navigate dangerous situations.”

Another goal of the exercise beyond maintaining currency in their abilities was to help Airmen learn the basic roles and responsibilities of others in the squadron. The first week of the exercise consisted of academics where they learned how to operate equipment and perform functions typical to other specialties within the communications mission set.

“When we get to the field, it’s important for everyone to be on the same page,” said Mitchell. “This was a unique opportunity for us to help ensure everyone meets training standards across the board.”

Those who originally trained into cyber operations learned the basics of radio transmissions and vice versa. This effort was part of an ongoing Air Force Special Operations Command initiative to decrease the number of Airmen needed to deploy in support of specific missions.

During the operational portion of the exercise, 919th SOCS members simulated post-hurricane and personnel-recovery operations with separate teams running their own sites.

The Airmen had no issue establishing internet communications, but did have to overcome the natural hurdles associated with radio communications. They braved a heatwave in an active and swampy airfield, which interfered with their radio communications. Through teamwork and creativity, they figured out how to work around the problem and successfully establish communications through their radio channels.

Generally, exercises such as this one offer more opportunities for Airmen in the squadron to hone their combat readiness and this venue was no different. As a result, many 919th SOCS members were able to practice their wartime skills at a location away from Duke Field.

“The chance to mobilize everyone at one time was certainly a test of capabilities and experience for everybody,” said Holden. “We’ve been working on things we don’t usually work on and learning together as a team.”

The Wolf Pack 2022 exercise also presented logistical challenges associated with moving a large number of Airmen at once and demonstrated a wide range of capabilities for remote locations.

“It took an amazing effort to put this together, and we’re extremely grateful for everyone’s help,” said Mitchell. “We took a crawl, walk, run approach to this event, and we’ve seen a night and day difference in performance throughout the process.”