Bushwhacker 21-07: Agile Combat Employment

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristine Legate
  • 355th Wing Public Affairs

DM Airmen implemented the Dynamic Wing concept with Exercise Bushwhacker 21-07, Oct. 4-8, 2021.


This exercise helped broaden and refine skillsets DM Airmen gain from training outside of their career specialties to provide the wing the ability to rapidly deploy agile and self-sufficient forces.


“Our Airmen are able to perform duties outside of their Air Force Specialty Codes,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Leif Nordhagen, 355th Wing director of Agile Combat Employment. “On day one, all personnel were aiding in setting up tents, providing security, and establishing internal and external communication – it didn’t matter if they were a communication or civil engineer troop, or a maintainer – they were chipping in to get the job done.”


Multi-capable Airmen training held at DM offers knowledge in expeditionary skills to fight and survive in contested and austere environments. This allows DM to reduce the footprint and size of deployed forces, enabling ACE capabilities. 


“With evolving technology, our enemies’ weaponry can not only reach our already established bases, but they can target them as well,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Joseph Turnham, 355th Wing commander. “We have to be able to move around, so that we’re not that easy fixed target for our adversaries.”


To combat that developing threat, ACE was introduced to reduce the dependency from those airfields by providing adaptable, self-sufficient forces.


“MCA are the foundation of ACE,” Turnham said. “The whole premise of this exercise is disaggregating our forces across theater while still generating rescue and attack air power. They provide us with the capabilities to spread out, further complicating our adversaries’ targeting situation while also sustaining our forces.”


This iteration of Bushwhacker focused on base operations and support while observing how Airmen effectively respond to conventional and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives, known as CBRNE, attacks. A small element of DM’s Dynamic Wing participated in a simulated forward deployment to Gila Bend, Arizona, where they established a short-term contingency location and faced simulated attacks from adversaries.


“Airmen executed how to set up, defend, sustain, operate, command and control and relocate an airbase,” Nordhagen said. “The team forward deployed to Gila Bend to minimize the distance from take-off location to the area of responsibility. This reduced transit time, eliminated a reliance on in-flight refueling and created enough on-station time to meet mission objectives.”


Bushwhacker allowed DM Airmen to execute and test ACE processes and timelines to pack up, load and reestablish wing facilities and command and control structures at dynamically identified forward locations. It incorporated Guardian Angels, an HC-130J Combat King II and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from DM, Airmen on temporary duty assignment from out of state, U.S. Army CH-47 Chinooks from Ft. Carson, Colorado, and Army National Guardsmen from various states implementing a Joint Personnel Recovery Task Force required for future major combat operations. 


“Our Dynamic Wing fits into the first generation of lead wings and this showcases how we achieve that,” Turnham said. “It demonstrates how we provide command and control elements and move forces around theater to deliver rescue and attack, while also being able to provide command and control to other forces. DM and it’s Airmen are continuously proving that we’re agile, giving us operational unpredictability.”


Exercises like Bushwhacker shape the Air Force's future employment strategies. Through continuous training, DM Airmen balance the need for robust capabilities with the need for agility and the ability to relocate bases to new locations with minimal notice.