Service members exercise new operational concepts during ARCTIC ACE

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --

More than 250 service members participated in exercise Arctic ACE here early July in an effort to validate new operational concepts.

The first of its kind, Arctic ACE was designed to exercise Pacific Air Force’s Agile Combat Employment concept of operations, or ACE, by concurrently conducting fifth-generation fighter operations from a main operating base and a forward, austere operating base.

“Arctic ACE is a PACAF-commander priority exercise testing agility and concepts in theater, trying to find more ways to be flexible and be less dependent on optimal sustainment bases such as JBER or Kadena Air Force Base, Japan, for example,” said Air Force Maj. Marc Aurilio, director of operations, 673d Communications Squadron. “We’re trying to operate out of places with a smaller footprint.”

The exercise included Airmen from the 3rd Wing, 673rd Air Base Wing, and 644th Combat Communications Squadron from Andersen, Air Base, Guam, as well as Marines from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and U.S. Army in Alaska Soldiers., and focused on validating new ways to deploy and maneuver assets more fluidly during a crisis or conflict.

“We actually had Airmen exercising what to this date has mostly just been on paper,” said Air Force Col. Richard Koch, 3rd Operations Group commander. “You can PowerPoint concepts all day, but it actually takes Airmen getting into the field to have a more thorough understanding of what works.”

This joint exercise was meant to test capabilities from an austere location to include setting up and operating a bare base while simultaneously establishing and maintaining communications with homestation in order to meet new challenges or missions in a dynamic environment.  Exercise deployers worked through various communications scenarios to identify ways to reconfigure standard radio and satellite equipment in order to maintain contact between homestation and their deployed location. 

None of the challenges we face are impossible, Aurilio said. “We have the best and brightest this country can provide that can and will solve the problems we face.”

“Some of the most successful moments we had during Arctic ACE were when Airmen were meeting the mission requirements without all the creature comforts from home station,” said Koch. “I’m really proud of the Airmen, Marines, and Soldiers who participated. We didn’t just survive the exercise, we thrived.”

The Air Force continues to work on its agility to meet new challenges in dynamic environments. Arctic ACE is one of many PACAF exercises planned throughout the next year aimed at validating and refining these concepts.