Warfare center creates mobility warriors

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Rosine
  • Air Force Print News

Every day more than 550 Airmen pick up a proverbial sword and shield and step onto the battlefield.

Their sword is knowledge honed to a razor’s edge by experience and technology; their shield, the Air Mobility Warfare Center; their battlefield, deployed locations around the world.

“We are responsible, in my opinion, for training today’s warfighters -- not just to fight today’s war but also the next war,” said Maj. Gen. Scott Gray, the center’s commander. “We are essentially involved in tactics, techniques and procedures, and teaching those to our warfighters. We are also involved in the development of (those same tactics, techniques and procedures).”

The center, which calls Fort Dix, N.J., home, serves as Air Mobility Command’s focus point for advanced education, training and testing. The center categorizes its warrior disciplines into five missions: the mobility weapons school, mobility operations school, expeditionary operations school, air mobility battlelab and resources directorate.

Resource directorate
“They are really jacks of all trades,” General Gray said. “They are an amazing group of folks. Even though they are stretched pretty thin, they tackle some of the undesirable jobs that the center faces.”

The resource directorate is the lynchpin of the warfare center, acting as a support group.

This organization is composed of the center’s financial management, multimedia, communications, civil engineering and facility management. They also act as the primary liaison with the Army here.

Air mobility battlelab
Conquering the science of battle wouldn’t be the same for the warfare center without its battlelab -- the newest in the Air Force.

“Our battlelab is looking for off-the-shelf technology that they can go out and figure out how to incorporate to improve the tools our warfighters are able to deploy with,” General Gray said.

Many people don’t understand what the lab does.

“Typically as an outsider, people think that the battlelab concentrates on the flying piece of AMC’s mission,” said Col. Phil Bradley, the lab commander. “But, what we really do is demonstrate capability across all of AMC. The best way to describe our mission is that we demonstrate the military utility of off-the-shelf technology. We transform today’s technology into solutions for today’s warfighters.”

Battlelab technicians are not part of a “think tank.” They do not test new innovations and ideas. They examine today’s technology in both the military and civilian worlds to see if it can be applied to the Air Force. Once an official technology is authorized, the lab demonstrates this capability and its potential benefits to the Air Force. Then the project is turned over to the AMC staff for possible acquisition.

Among its most notable demonstrations are the virtual electronic combat training simulator II, on-board weight and balance determination system, the Halvorsen airstairs kit and the advanced contingency lighting system.

Mobility weapons school
When in combat, Airmen need weapons.

The U.S. Air Force Mobility Weapons School takes pilots and navigators from the C-130 Hercules, and pilots from the KC-135 Stratotanker and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft and put them through a rigorous five-and-a-half month training regime.

“They teach them everything that they can possibly muster up about tactics, technique and procedures and how to employ that weapon system,” General Gray said.

The general said the pilots and navigators also learn how to pass on everything they’ve learned to the rest of the cadre who fly those aircraft.

“They are responsible for turning out what I call our PhDs in flying, and when you graduate you earn a weapons patch -- a patch you wear for the rest of your life, which identifies them as a weapons officer,” General Gray said.

The school conducts weapons instructor courses on the C-130, C-17 and KC-135 aircraft. They also provide combat aircrew studies, the senior officer tactics course and air mobility involvement at Red Flag, to name a few.

Mobility operations school
Among its facets, the school provides instruction in operations, aircraft maintenance, air transportation, Global Mobility Wargaming and the Director of Mobility Forces Course -- this course takes colonels and general officers and teaches them to control mobility forces here and abroad. For example, an officer may have used home-based training during relief operations following Hurricane Katrina.

“They are very diverse folks as far as instructor capability and the courses they offer,” the general said. “We have everything from a (Community College of the Air Force) accredited courses all the way up to our (advanced study of air mobility) course, which is an accredited master’s degree program.”

“As changes occur in the Air Force to meet its ever-evolving mission requirements, we make sure that we are all evolving -- it is an exciting environment to teach in,” said Rudy Becker, deputy commandant of the mobility operations school.

Expeditionary operations school
“They are our go-to-war school if you will,” General Gray said.

The school is known for its Eagle Flag exercise, contingency skills training and Phoenix Ravens training program. They also provide such programs as the advanced logistics readiness officer course and Department of Defense anti-terrorism level II training.

Four to six Eagle Flag exercises are held each year. For each exercise, the school brings in more than 700 short tons of cargo and about 400 people from 20 to 30 different bases.

“We are doing great training, but we are constantly asking ourselves, ‘Is this the right training?’”said Lt. Col. Tony DiMarco, chief of plans and resources for the expeditionary operations school. “The Air Force is still evolving into this expeditionary force and our training is going to change as new requirements come online.”

To help ensure their training is meeting the needs of deployed Airmen, the school does its best to stay on the cutting edge.

“Every day there are new techniques and tactics that are coming out of (places like Iraq),” Colonel DiMarco said. “We actually send people TDY over there so that they can bring their experiences back here so we can integrate them into our training. We do this so that our Airmen get state-of-the-art education on the latest things that are going on over there. As the war evolves, we are evolving with it.”

Even its newest warriors don’t always fully understand the warfare center’s capabilities.

“It hit me about three weeks after taking command,” General Gray said. “What I knew before I came over to the warfare center was that it was a true center of excellence and there was some great talent here with some pretty unique courses, but I really had no idea just how far reaching the capabilities of the warfare center were,” he said.

The Air Mobility Warfare Center opened its doors here on May 1, 1994. It was the brainchild of Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, then-commander of AMC. Since then, the center has strived to turn the general’s vision into a reality.

The warfare center offered its first course in June 1994, but that single course evolved into 59 courses, with even more on the horizon. The center teaches more than 5,000 in-resident students and more than 7,000 distance-learning students.

“If you think of us as a university we’re cranking out about 12,000 students a year. If you think of us as a wing, we’re heavily involved with support functions and flying functions and go-to-war training,” General Gray said. “We really are a unique center of excellence -- that is what General Fogleman envisioned … a center of excellence to go out and teach warfighting to the Airmen of AMC.”

Preparing today’s Airmen also means being prepared to teach the Airmen of tomorrow -- a future the center is already planning.

One of these plans involves moving its KC-135 weapons instructor course to McGuire Air Force Base, N.J., where the center already has its C-17 WIC. The center is also trying to stand up a KC-10 and C-5 WIC.

They are also experimenting with command and control elements in the command’s air operations center by aggressively pursuing E-learning opportunities. E-learning is a hand-held computer that Airmen can take with them to deployed locations. With these devices, Airmen can take educational courses and improve the capabilities directly from the field.

“We realize that today’s student is much more adept with technology then most of us ever were,” General Gray said. “We are convinced that this new mobile learning is absolutely the wave of the future so we are hugely involved with it.”

Preparing for the future, the warfare center has already volunteered to be on the leading edge of the Air Force’s Smart Ops 21 efficiency program -- proactively tackling the issues of a possible shrinking budget and future manpower restrictions. The center also recently updated its regime by incorporating its first humanitarian relief operations scenario into its Eagle Flag exercise.

“We are a nation at war and the courses that we’ve got here are very much warfare centered -- some for near-term and some for the long-term,” General Gray said. “We are very much an organization that is thinking about the war today, the war tomorrow and how to get our Airmen prepared for those two wars.”

Aside from its New Jersey home, the center also has locations at Fairchild AFB, Wash., Nellis AFB, Nev., Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Little Rock AFB, Ark., Scott AFB, Ill., and Hurlburt Field, Fla.