UFG16: Exercise Augmentees prove to be vital part of whole

UFG16: Exercise Augmentees prove to be vital part of whole

by Senior Airman Kasey Phipps
Osan Air Base

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea — Like waves crashing onto the beaches of the Korean peninsula, 2,500 U.S. military and Department of Defense personnel flooded into the Republic of Korea for the largest joint combined simulation-supported command post exercise in the world – Ulchi Freedom Guardian.

The annual U.S. and Republic of Korea exercise, conducted Aug. 22 to Sept. 2, 2016, took place virtually across six installations on the Korean Peninsula and select installations in the U.S. However, with participants and augmentees from off-peninsula, including representatives from nine United Nations Sending States and neutral U.N. observers, the benefits of the exercise stretched past the installations’ walls.

“The value of working with so many countries is truly immeasurable,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Paul Keddell, Air Command Component lead exercises planner for UFG16. “The exercise allows us to work hand-in-hand with each of the nine sending states, and affords us an opportunity to expand on preexisting relationships and continue to build new relationships.”

The exercise augmentees filled various roles within the robust and realistic exercise. From planning and injecting scenarios to reacting and responding to those scenarios, they caught a full view of the U.S. and ROK mission in the region.

“It really helps us to understand contingency operations here and how different installations and units interact to support the Republic of Korea,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Sheraz Cedano, emergency management specialist from Yakota Air Base, Japan, who worked in the exercise scripting cell for the duration of the exercise. “It gives a higher level picture of the operations and a greater appreciation for what each career field brings to the fight.”

For U.S. Army Private First Class Jeremy Lee, an air traffic controller from U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys, ROK, who worked to deconflict the simulated air and ground assets while in the operations room; seeing and experiencing the decisions made in response to the scenario injections has given him new knowledge to take back to his home station.

“I learned to use the Tactical Airspace Integration System, or TAIS, in ways that I don’t use it at Humphreys,” said Lee. “Here, I’m learning the full capabilities of the system that I’ll use at my next duty station. It’s like on the job training, but I’m also getting a full perspective of how what I do fits into the larger picture of defending the ROK.”

Augmentees worked as several other career fields, including translators, public affairs specialists, weather analyzers, intelligence specialists and logistics personnel, which are vital to the operations of both the exercise and in a real world situation.

Just as Lee can use his newly gained knowledge on the TAIS at his next station, U.S. Air Force Capt. Jonathan Berkey, a personnel recovery duty officer in the operations room from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, said he can use the skills learned in UFG in any job he will do in the Air Force.

“It really requires us to think outside the box,” said Berkey. “There are a lot aircraft and moving parts, so anything you do logistically requires a different thought process. It’s a lot of problem solving.”

While the exercises mainly tested decision-makers at the general officer and command level, the multinational, multi-service participants were challenged and evaluated at all levels during their 12-hour shifts, right down to the augmentees who drove the exercise buses.

“This exercise shows these Airmen that not only are their tasks vitally important, but they are connected to the decisions made at the highest level,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Walter Sams, deputy commander Air Force Forces. “I am enormously proud of all military members on this peninsula.”

As the tide of augmentees ebbs, they can rest well knowing that their efforts, along with those of the ROK, helped to strengthen the protection of 51 million Republic of Korea citizens, said Sams.

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