NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Airborne command posts from the 82nd Airborne Division and 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division participated in an Air Force exercise involving more than 50 aircraft, Friday.
The Joint Forces Exercise-Vulnerability was initiated at Pope Field and concluded at Nellis AFB. This exercise tested the ability to conduct joint planning, mission command, and other unique capabilities of both Army and Air Force command and control systems while aboard aircraft en route to a tactical objective.
“This was our first opportunity to participate en masse with JFE-VUL,” said Col. Charles Masaracchia, the 82nd Abn. Div.’s operations officer.
Masaracchia added that Maj. Gen. John Nicholson Jr., the 82nd Abn. Div. commander, had the intent to embed with the weapons under graduate students to conduct detailed joint planning and en route mission command using reach back and forward systems to facilitate the situational awareness.
The brigade’s tactical plan was briefed by Maj. Marc Melton and Capt. Sean O’Neal from 3rd BCT’s Operation Section to the WUGS. This was an integral part of the Air Force’s planning process and assisted in the approach of the drop zone, the order of movement, the overall understanding of the ground tactical plan and the enemy threat that both the Army and Air Force faced.
The exercise was initiated when the 82nd Abn. Div. paratroopers conducted final manifest call, pre-jump operations, and boarded the aircraft at Pope Field.
One unique aspect of this operation was the in-flight rigging. This entails rigging the parachute harness and having a jumpmaster personnel inspection conducted by current and qualified jumpmasters. It is commonly conducted for airborne operations that have a long flight prior to the operation.
“This exercise afforded us a prime opportunity to take advantage of an in-flight rig, a skill set normally practiced when we jump into the National or Joint Readiness Training Centers,” said Master Sgt. Robert Edwards. “We are setting up this jumpmaster team and the division for future success.”
The Air Force also exercised a unique aspect of command and control by having multiple groups of fighter escorts at different legs of the flight and conduct in-flight refueling operations as they and the paratroopers traveled across the United States.
A shared capability that was exercised was the fixed installation sattellite antenna installed on a C-17 Globmaster III.
“JFE-VUL provided an opportunity to integrate both emerging and legacy technologies,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Sampson, 82nd Abn. Div. communication officer. “The true capability was the FISA equipped aircraft coupled with the 75th Ranger Regiment’s system providing increased bandwidth to the airborne formation,”
An after action review was conducted at Nellis AFB, by the 82nd Abn. Div. and various members of Air Force leadership who participated in the joint exercise.
“The plan we had was robust enough to survive first contact,” said Lt. Col. Brian Wald, 57th Weapons Squadron commander.
“The great thing about JFE-VUL is the joint planning conducted at Nellis Air Force Base, which capitalized on the strength of every participant and how we were able to integrate those capabilities together,” Wald added.
This exercise achieved the end state that Air Force and Army planners understand each others capabilities and limitations, while creating enduring relationships that will facilitate future joint planning exercises.