Premium DOD exercise hones special operations skills
By Raquel Sanchez, Air Force Special Operations Command
/ Published May 19, 2014
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- More than 1,500 special operations forces, or SOF, from around the services participated in Emerald Warrior, a two-week joint service, inter-agency and partner nation exercise that concluded here May 9.
Emerald Warrior leverages lessons learned from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom to provide trained and ready forces to combatant commanders. It is the Department of Defense's only irregular warfare exercise that uses both live and virtual forces.
"We concentrate on the unique skillsets needed to meet the demands of irregular warfare," said Col. Bruce Taylor, the exercise director for Emerald Warrior. "Our elite special operations forces rely on Emerald Warrior to provide pre-deployment training and refine tactics, techniques and procedures that are vital to our national security."
The exercise provided tactical airlift, fires support and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, including 90 live aircraft players and 17 virtual aircraft players from active-duty, guard and reserve units on the ground and in command and control elements.
This was also the first year the MQ-9 Reaper from Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, participated in the exercise. Remotely piloted aircraft, like the MQ-9, provide unique ISR capabilities for the warfighter.
"We're excited to demonstrate our MQ-9 rapid deployment package to the Emerald Warrior training audience," said Capt. Christopher Hill, the MQ-9 lead for Emerald Warrior. "This new capability will give commanders greater flexibility to respond to changing requirements around the globe."
Emerald Warrior incorporates live, virtual, constructive operational training, or LVC-OT, to bring realistic integrated combat training to local and distant aircrews as well as to help minimize costs as portions of the missions are simulated in place of actual flights.
"Emerald Warrior integrates combat forces on military ranges throughout the eastern U.S. with cutting-edge aircraft simulators and gaming software to provide realistic close air support training at a fraction of the cost relative to conventional training methods," Taylor said. "A new milestone was reached during this year's exercise when LVC-OT was used to integrate eight joint and partner nation units in a complex, six-hour full mission profile to execute 16 close air support and 12 airlift sorties."
Emerald Warrior also provides a unique opportunity for components of U.S. Special Operations Command, conventional, interagency, partner nation and non-governmental agencies to train in a joint, realistic environment.
"Emerald Warrior provides an outstanding operational framework to train within a realistic coalition construct which deepens interoperability between SOF elements," said Maj. Matthew McCloskey, from the 2nd Special Operations Company, Canadian Special Operations Regiment. "The scale and scope of the exercise also allows us to leverage and work with assets not normally available to us at home. The realistic training we conducted throughout our time here has been outstanding."
The exercise's operational area stretched across several acres of air and ground space covering multiple training areas at Hurlburt Field, Eglin Air Force Base and Apalachicola in Florida; Camp Shelby and Stennis Space Center in Mississippi; Pelham Range in Alabama; and Melrose Range in New Mexico.
"No other country has a SOF air-centric exercise," Taylor said. "Emerald Warrior brings together conventional and special operations forces, along with our sister services and those of our partner nations, to provide the most realistic and integrated warfare experience short of actual combat."