VS24: Air Mobility Task Force takes on the Pacific

  • Published
  • By Chris Bishop
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

Across the vast and tyrannous distances of the Pacific, Air Mobility Command supported the 10th iteration of exercise Valiant Shield 24, a biennial joint and—for the first time—multinational field training exercise in the Indo-Pacific region, June 7-18, 2024.

The exercise included nine wings from across AMC, each bringing different mission-sets to exercise and challenges to overcome. VS24 was led by the United States Navy’s Pacific Fleet.

Units from across the Department of Defense participated during VS24, integrating between U.S. and ally and partner forces at various levels while operating in realistic, sometimes degraded, environments. For AMC, this meant continuing momentum from previous exercises such as Mobility Guardian 23 and gaining ground toward future exercises.

According to Capt. Tommy Takao, a pilot with 6th Airlift Squadron, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and the C-17 planner for VS24, the opportunity to practice Joint and combined training is rare. 

 “[Valiant Shield] showcases our commitment and our dedication to our allied and partner nations here in the Pacific and it also shows our ability to show up in mass and move cargo to where it needs to go to support the Joint Force,” he said. “We got our departure order, sent half our force element out with about 140 people and we were then able to regenerate within a very short time span upon landing at Yokota.”

Explode Into Theater 

AMC is postured to provide maneuver and flexibility for the Joint Force in times of crisis. VS24 showcased Mobility Air Forces’ newly developed techniques, tactics and procedures to rapidly deploy or redeploy into theater.  

One of these new tactics are Mass Endurance Operations. What was previously unprecedented is increasingly becoming standard practice—aircrew and aircraft flying for extended periods to achieve maximum combat effectiveness in fast-pace operational environments.

The 317th Airlift Wing, Dyess Air Force Base, entered the Indo-Pacific with mass, tempo and sustainment during a 22.6-hour MEO. The wing brought four C-130J’s across the continental United States and the Pacific Ocean to land at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, for Valiant Shield.

Endurance operations such as this align with core objectives from the Agile Combat Employment concept, which is shifting operations from centralized infrastructure to dispersed locations and sustaining combat power in contested environments.

According to Col. Trigg Randall, 515th Air Mobility Operations Group commander and Commander of the Valiant Shield 2024 Mobility Task Force, AMC supports ACE concepts dominantly through the Global Air Mobility Support System. Practiced extensively during VS24, air mobility operation units are in-place within the Pacific theater to receive units as they arrive. In more austere environments, the GAMSS has contingency response units to help receive aircraft where there wasn’t previously personnel or infrastructure to do so.

“The only way they can [explode into theater] is by having support personnel on the ground to receive them when they get to the Pacific,” said Randall.

Command and Control

Maintaining logistics across vast distances in the Pacific has its challenges. Add the potential for conflict and degraded environments, and those challenges grow exponentially.

According to Takao, VS24 is good training to test Airmen’s ability to plan and execute missions while geographically separated from the AOC that directs them.

To address these challenges during VS24, AMC stood up a Mobility Task Force, which Randall said can be used when aircrew and personnel cannot reach back to AMC or an Air Operations Center. The MTF monitored all 618th AOC Command and Control elements, so in the event of communication systems challenges, command continuity could be maintained.

Randall said that VS24’s MTF had 16 personnel assigned to it, majority of which had no prior AOC experience. Exercising adaptability in ever-changing environments, they were able to accomplish their tasks in exercise scenarios and operated in-theater without communications with the 618th AOC.

The MTF concept is designed to be scalable, enabling wide application of ACE concepts. It can be applied both to small contingencies and large theater exercise such as VS24.

“As the MTF is a concept, it was a trial run here during this exercise,” said Randall, “The idea of being able to operate in a degraded environment is a valid one, and we need to keep working to find out the best ways to do so.”

In his 2023 Beyond the Manifesto, Gen. Mike Minihan, Air Mobility Command commander, said that momentum and new concepts will be required in real-world contingencies with complex command structures and logistical challenges such as degraded communications. Through these MAF concepts executed during exercises like VS24, AMC continues to develop command relationships, command and control, and sustainment concepts of employment that will survive first contact with the enemy.