Air Force civil engineers test new mission qualification exercise model in line with AFFORGEN

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Building on the momentum of Readiness Challenge IX, Air Force civil engineers tested a new mission qualification exercise model at Tyndall’s Silver Flag Exercise Site June 26-30 that aligns with the Air Force Force Generation model, or AFFORGEN.

The AFFORGEN model is a 24-month readiness cycle made up of four six-month phases – Prepare, Certify, Available to Commit and Reset. Prepare and Certify are focused on building high-end readiness, Available to Commit is rotational deployments or response force taskings to the Joint Force and Reset is reintegration and reconstitution at home station. 

“One of the major differences in the new mission qualification approach is the focus on teaming,” said Col. Matthew Stanford, Readiness director at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center. “In the past, we tracked individuals completing a specified training curriculum. Now, we’re evaluating a team’s ability to deliver engineer capabilities through a multi-day exercise.

“Silver Flag is one of the first Air Force training or exercise programs to align with the AFFORGEN model,” Stanford said. “As the model matures, we’ll schedule engineers during the Prepare phase, or early Ready phase as required. That timing will allow warfighters to complete Silver Flag and return to conduct integrated training and certification with their full deployed team at home station.”

Readiness Challenge, held in April, is a biennial CE competition that tests readiness and ability to conduct full-spectrum, integrated base response and recovery operations in contested, degraded and operationally limited environments, according to recent event coverage.

“Readiness Challenge is also a large-scale readiness event—but through the lens of a competition focused on discrete events with scoring,” said Lt. Col. Craig Poulin, former Tyndall 801st RED HORSE Training Squadron commander. “Like Readiness Challenge, Silver Flag expects teams to use their skills and knowledge to execute the mission in a challenging, realistic environment but with a focus on a continual exercise with feedback on combat support capabilities.”

Lessons learned from the recent Readiness Challenge and feedback from participants, cadre and observers also helped identify training or qualification gaps and weaknesses that were incorporated in the new exercise model, said Royal Canadian Air Force Maj. Nicolas Claveau, chief of AFCEC’s Contingency Training and exchange officer with the unit.

Getting the new Silver Flag Mission Qualification model from concept to its first implementation was a team effort between AFCEC and the 801st RHTS, Claveau said. RED HORSE teams at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and Andersen AB, Guam Silver Flag Exercise Sites are also working toward implementing their own mission qualification exercises to support units primarily outside of the Continental U.S.

“At AFCEC, we look at the civil engineer enterprise portfolio level,” he said. “We identify exercise requirements to meet expectations, work with the CE enterprise on messaging and scheduling and provide support to the Silver Flag sites. The RED HORSE units at the Silver Flag sites plan everything that’s required to develop the exercise and execute it at their sites with their experienced cadre and equipment.”

The inaugural event was planned using the recently updated Civil Engineer Wartime Tasks Standards which list required tasks and measures successful accomplishment. 
“We’ve been leaning forward to make these changes that better prepare and align how CE and other combat support career fields present their forces for deployment,” Claveau added, “and following this first iteration, we expect to build on what we’ve learned and keep improving future Silver Flag Mission Qualification events.”

Capt. Spencer Figge is the 24th Civil Engineer Squadron Engineering Flight commander at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, but for this week’s exercise, he was the 99th Expeditionary Mission Support Group commander. 

While in Florida, the captain spoke to various participants and cadre about the changes between previous training and the new mission qualification approach.

“The biggest difference was the focus on execution instead of training,” Figge said. “(At the beginning of the exercise) we were given a task list and expected to go through it and figure out how to do all the things that needed to get done with very little guidance or input from the cadre. Before, you’d get your skills training in the first part of the week and then do an exercise to kind of show that you can do those skills in a little bit of a higher stress environment.”

The exercise helped identify weaknesses and gaps in home station training, Figge said, and exposed some skills that units may have gotten away from that need more emphasis with the new AFFORGEN unit deployment model.

“We really need to put more of an emphasis on those contingency skills during our home station training,” he said. 

Thinking about the transition from the older deployment model to the new one, it’s good for Airmen to remember the change management process, Figge said.

“We’re going from one old way of doing something to a totally new way of doing something and there’s going to be a lot of growing pains in the process. We’re experiencing some of those now and working through some real-world and exercise stuff that’s kind of affecting our job,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s about figuring out how to get the job done so that’s what we’re really trying to do here.

“I’d just encourage anyone that’s doing this to think about the bigger picture and where it’s going and not necessarily your one small part in this whole change process.”

More than 60 personnel from various installations – comprised of 75% civil engineers and the remainder from other functional communities like contracting, comptroller and ground transportation -- were at Tyndall to conduct various agile combat employment tasks from tent builds and power generation, to water purification, rapid airfield damage repair and base recovery after attack operations. 

Future events will expand further than the disciplines at this event, Poulin said.