Anytime, anywhere: Exercise Bamboo Eagle showcases first-ever Air Mobility Element

  • Published
  • By Capt. Alexandra Smith
  • 673 ABW/PA

Before fighter jets launch exercise sorties, they need maintainers, security forces, and communications specialists, along with all the equipment required to receive, guard, repair, and launch those aircraft and communicate with their command.

In an agile combat employment scenario, mobility air forces are needed to deliver these people and resources into and out of the theater of operations.

In the first-ever iteration of Exercise Bamboo Eagle, Air Mobility Command provided, for the first time, a new Global Air Mobility Support System concept to put to the test: an Air Mobility Element directed by the 515th Air Mobility Operations Wing.

The U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, which directed and oversaw BE 24-1, challenged participating units with their most combat-representative exercise to date of a high-end conflict. About 3,000 U.S. service members, allies and partners from the Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force brought over 150 aircraft to multiple locations across the western United States to participate.

The AME, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, was composed of four smaller force packages called Air Mobility Teams -- from air mobility squadrons at Yokota Air Base, Japan; Osan Air Base, South Korea; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The AME served as a vital link between GAMSS personnel on the ground and exercise senior leaders, and facilitated movement into and out of the Naval Air Station North Island spoke location in California.

The AME integrated dynamic theater requirements and advised leaders on GAMSS capabilities, helping generate rapid global-mobility effects on a theater-wide scale to maneuver the joint force.

The exercise marked the first time an AME, which was conceptually developed during last year’s Mobility Guardian ’23 exercise, was tested in a training environment.

“Over the duration of the exercise, we were responsible for the generation of 95 mobility sorties and the swift movement of 662 passengers and 817,000 pounds of cargo,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Bryce Grier, 515th AME commander. “To do so, we had to streamline the process to facilitate combat and kinetic effects at the speed needed to win within the pacing theater.”

The 515th AME was responsible for receiving and launching all mobility sorties across Bamboo Eagle 24-1 and Agile Flag 24-1, an Air Combat Command-led exercise which ran concurrently. They planned, inspected, loaded and unloaded C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules aircraft and provided support throughout the deployment, sustainment, and redeployment phases before standing down on Feb. 4.

According to Grier, the AME defined a framework and sequence of events to generate rapid disaggregation and ensure the Mobility Air Forces can “explode into theater” to connect, maneuver, and sustain the joint force to achieve national objectives as outlined in the National Defense Strategy.

“The current institutional logistics deployment processes are very compartmentalized across several stakeholders, but we were able to reduce the timeline of these procedures by 50 percent,” said Grier. “If we can drive consolidation and concurrent processes, it condenses duplication of effort, reducing the risk of delaying a joint force commander’s desired effects and allowing us to maneuver in a much shorter window.”

Members of the NAS North Island AMT, all from JBER, said they found the new structure advantageous in BE 24-1.

“The AMT structure is the future of en-route nodal flexibility,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joseph Hollis IV, AMT lead at NAS North Island. “Our ability to train and deploy as a team forges competence and confidence for us to execute in uncertain circumstances.”

The AMT structure helps organize command-and-control, maintenance, and logistics interoperability within these complex exercises.

“This force element package will continue to be honed and institutionalized through …. empowerment of adaptive decision-making at all levels,” said Hollis.

This empowerment can also be referred to as a “mission command mindset,” with a centralized command and decentralized execution. With centralized command, a commander retains the responsibility and authority for planning, directing, and coordinating an overall military operation. Decentralized execution, on the other hand, authorizes personnel on the ground to make tactical decisions to achieve the commander’s intent.

Commanders enable this decentralization by empowering tactical decision-making to further enable flexibility, initiative, and responsiveness in mission accomplishment.

“We have to provide maximum endurance logistics -- to move fast, calculatedly, and lean to maneuver not only ACE packages, but the joint force at large, into and within the Pacific theater,” said Grier. “We need to leverage ACE principles to ensure we are properly employing the people we send out, that the team is able to both be light and act quickly with assurance in their proficiency.”