TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
As a pilot stands in a forest, seemingly devoid of human life, he is watched by friend and foe.
The quiet serenity of the woodlands erupts with the whirling of helicopter blades and the incoming sound of simulated opposing forces -- his rescue or his demise still uncertain.
Through a partnership between Moody AFB, Georgia, and Tyndall AFB, Exercise Stealth Guardian took place Aug. 7 through 11 in areas surrounding Panama City and the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, to simulate the rescue of downed pilots in different environments on land and at sea.
“Stealth Guardian is designed to integrate and employ Air Force rescue and 5th generation assets through real-world exercise scenarios similar to a deployed or contingency environment,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Aupke, 347th Operations Support Squadron director of operations.
The exercise practiced delivering agile and combat ready rescue and 5th generation platforms across the globe.
“About three months of planning went into the exercise, led by our weapons and tactics shop and the 325th Fighter Wing -- scenario building, script writing and part task training was planned and executed,” Aupke elaborated.
As the exercise approached, both bases found and addressed budding complications that could have arisen with an exercise the scale of Stealth Guardian.
“Potential struggles were integration of Tactical Data Link differences in tactics, exposure to [combat search and rescue] brevity, and overall familiarity with differing mission sets,” Aupke said. “We overcame these struggles by setting aside a whole day for capes briefs, cross talks, mission planning and table top problem solving.”
During the exercise, members of the 325th Security Forces Squadron lent their members to aid in the success of the week-long event.
“We have assisted by doing waterborne operations,” said Tech. Sgt. Jessica Soto, 325th SFS NCO in-charge of community police. “[The Moody members] were doing water recovery, so we dropped our boat in Carrabelle, [Florida], transported the survivor and independent medical technician out to the main point so the pararescuemen could do the recovery. Another facet we supported was playing the role of opposition forces for the pararescuemen and A-10s to complete a land based recovery exercise.”
In addition to the Air Force’s most vital asset, the Airman, the 325th SFS also extended its services in a variety of other ways. For the duration of the exercise, Soto ingrained in her Airmen the importance of what they were doing.
“Other support we provided was the use of our armory, getting all Entry Authorization List personnel on to the flightline, and of course we provided flightline security for aircraft,” Soto said. “Any time you have a training opportunity, the way we train is going to be different from how another base trains, so it is advantageous to share intel -- adding more tools to the toolbox if you will. It’s really good for the Airmen that volunteer to see how other career fields are doing things and how it impacts their job.
“For example, when you have an Airman standing at the gate, guarding the flightline or base, it gives them an opportunity to see what ‘big A’ Air Force is doing and how they fit into that mission,” Soto added.
Although not the main focus of the exercise, the 325th SFS did not let their Moody counterparts be the only ones who received the chance to train.
“We still had the chance to do some training,” Soto said. “Case in point, we had the opportunity to take our boats out to an environment we were unfamiliar with and put them into the water. When going into an environment you are not typically used to, you have to take into account different high tides and low tides, sandbars and the like. Additionally, once out in the water they have to be aware of different swells. In the Gulf, you may see one or two foot swells, but where we were you could see three-to-five-foot swells. This leads the Airmen to refer back to the training they receive at Tyndall and taking it to a potentially unknown environment.”
After the conclusion of the exercise, members of the 347th OSS leadership touted the professionalism and augmentation Team Tyndall and its facilities brought to the exercise.
“Tyndall has been a great partner now for two of our major exercises,” Aupke said. “The 325th FW has fantastic facilities and amazing Airmen that are driven by innovation. Our relationship was strengthened through the use of their Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation facilities and can-do attitude of their 325th Logistics Readiness Squadron.
“It was successful at teaching rescue tactics and creative thinking,” Aupke continued. “When we can teach Airmen how to be more prepared for what could be the worst day of their lives, being shot down over enemy territory, our mission will be that much easier to execute if the time comes and those Airmen will be able to reintegrate back to flying that much faster. Doing this with nontraditional assets, like the F-22 Raptors, expands our capabilities and leads to new ways of doing things.”