Agile Reaper 24-1 ends with historic firsts

  • Published
  • By Capt. Alexandra Buckley
  • JBER Public Affairs

Exercise scenarios for Agile Reaper 24-1 formally ended at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, April 16, 2024, after operating in the Pacific theater with four spokes connected to the 3rd Air Expeditionary Wing, making it the largest, most combat-representative wing-led exercise of its time.

However, the significant logistical challenge of redeploying all personnel and equipment was not complete until April 30, an expeditious movement of over 700 personnel back to their duty locations across the Pacific.

“The 3rd AEW continues to improve how the United States Air Force conducts Agile Combat Employment in the Indo-Pacific,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Kevin Jamieson, 3rd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “We accomplished a lot of firsts in this iteration of Exercise Reaper, and this has been our most combat-representative training scenario to date. We need exercises that test the wing’s ability to expeditiously deploy, disaggregate as needed, reaggregate, and then fully redeploy. This week, we finished that last piece of the puzzle.

“I’m incredibly proud of the team’s work in this year’s iteration of Agile Reaper. We are leading the way forward,” said Jamieson. “The fact that we can successfully deploy and operate with our mission generation force element, the F-22 Raptor, at five locations in the Pacific over the course of a short, one-week exercise is monumental.”

In the exercise, with the help and cooperation of the Japan Ministry of Defense, the 3rd AEW successfully landed and launched two F-22 Raptors out of Iwo To, Japan, historically known for the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

“It was an honor to set foot on the island, but to see our fifth-generation warfighters making history and our Airmen performing their duties efficiently the moment we landed, was extremely rewarding and made me proud of the team,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Laura Lee, 673rd Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels flight commander and spoke mayor of Iwo To for the 3rd Air Expeditionary Wing. “From coordinating emails at home to standing on the flightline watching the F-22s fly by with their afterburners, knowing what the island means to all of us, I think everyone in attendance would agree that the feeling on the ground was indescribable.”

Lee credited U.S. Air Force Maj. Henry Niemeyer, 90th Fighter Squadron pilot and 3rd Air Expeditionary Wing A5 director, with ensuring coordination with the Japan Self-Defense Force to authorize the mission during AR 24-1.

The 3rd AEW also operated for the first time out of Saipan, where the 15th AEW from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, deployed, launched, and recovered C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, which was presented as a static display for a community day on April 13, 2024.

During the event, the 3rd AEW supplied an F-22 Raptor from the 90th Fighter Squadron, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and an HC-130 Combat King II from the 176th Wing, also assigned to JBER. Several hundred people attended the event with the three aircraft and were able to talk to pilots, maintainers, and security forces defenders.

“It was a great experience to bring a Raptor to Saipan and share what we’re trying to accomplish with Agile Reaper,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Nelson Shivel, a 90th Fighter Squadron pilot who flew to Saipan and stayed to discuss his role as a pilot and the intent behind AR 24-1. “The turnout and support from the community was great to see.”

A community day hosted by the 3rd AEW on Tinian also drew crowds on April 11, with families and students able to see an F-22 Raptor which was operating in an area of Tinian International Airport, and a C-12 Huron assigned to the 517th Airlift Squadron.

In addition to the outreach to local communities, the 3rd AEW continued to test different methods to ensure all participants used combat-representative roles and processes to stress the capability to generate combat air power expeditiously across the Pacific. This included a forward arming and refueling point for the F-22 Raptors operating at Northwest Field, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on April 16.

The FARP was the first time the 3rd Air Expeditionary Wing, most of which is composed of units from JBER, completed a hot refueling of an F-22 at Andersen.

Throughout the exercise, the resources available to create solutions on the ground to emerging needs, including a Scientist and Engineer Demand Force Team from the Air Force Research Lab, led to increasingly effective learning points and improved techniques, tactics, and procedures.

“We continue to improve the 3rd AEW’s tactics, techniques and procedures to conduct Agile Combat Employment in the Pacific,” said Jamieson. “Our men and women are overcoming every challenge put in front of them. This time last year we only operated at one spoke; now we successfully landed F-22s at four. I truly believe that if we train our Airmen in combat-representative scenarios and resource them appropriately, our team will be ready to deter any aggression in the Indo-Pacific. I can’t wait to see what this team does next.”