U.S. Airmen, Soldiers and Belgian Army Joined for Training Exercise at Ft Bliss and Holloman AFB


F16 Viper Streams Over Holloman AFB (AlamogordoTownNews.com)

U.S. Airmen, Soldiers and Belgian army soldiers participated in joint-training exercise Operation Sandlot in the Fort Bliss range in New Mexico, March 13-15, 2024. Tactical air control party specialists coordinated air-to-ground strikes with F-16 Vipers and MQ-9 Reapers from Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico and AH-64 Apaches from Fort Bliss.

“It’s a good chance for us to come together and share tactics, techniques, and procedures so that we are ready to deploy,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Justin Brownridge, 7th Air Support Operations Squadron assistant director of operations.

NATO allies come to the United States to learn from Air Force and Army assets and techniques, then disseminate that knowledge when they return to their home bases.

“It’s good to see different ways of doing it,” said Belgian army Capt. Tom Kennes, joint terminal attack control training facilitator. “If we go downrange with them, we’ll already have a baseline on how they work.”

Training with the MQ-9 is of particular importance to the Belgians because they will receive their own later in 2024.

“It’s a good opportunity across NATO for them to come use our assets,Brownridge said.

Cooperative exercises are nothing new to Holloman, as the F-16s and MQ-9s based there are often used in training exercises with Fort Bliss. In 2022, the MQ-9s participated in the biennial Rim of the Pacific, a maritime exercise that included participants from 28 nations. Developing people, generating readiness, projecting power and developing integrated capabilities are at the core of the Department of the Air Force’s mission to reoptimize for great power competition.

The 49th Civil Engineer Squadron organized a deployment training exercise alongside several other base agencies at Holloman Air Fore Base on Feb. 28, 2024.

The exercise was named Operation Stampede and was the first to align with the new Air Force Force Generation deployment cycle. Airmen who are set to deploy in the coming months trained with the teams they will work with on their upcoming deployment.

“We saw a lot of civil engineers who were set to deploy, but did not have experience setting up bases from scratch,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Quinn Tipton, 49th CES Prime BEEF manager. “We wanted to give these members exposure to what that looks like downrange as well as allow them to work with their teams before they head out. We will continue to conduct this kind of exercise every six months for the Airmen who are set to deploy in line with the AFFORGEN deployment cycle.”

The 49th CES leadership used the exercise as an opportunity to identify areas where Airmen within the squadron may require more training.

"Being here at Holloman, we can make mistakes,” said Tipton. “We don’t want them to identify issues for the first time downrange, where there is no room to make mistakes. From this exercise, we realized we have some things to fine-tune and, moving forward, we have a great roadmap of where we want to end up and a plan for how to get there.”

Airmen from the 49th CES, 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron, and 635th Material Maintenance Squadron all worked together to simulate building a temporary airfield, responding to injured members, and creating makeshift living quarters in a remote location.

“Our team was given a bunch of scenarios and we worked around all the issues that came up and figured out how to best use the equipment we had available,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt Mathew Chapman, 49th CES electrical power production section chief. “The Airmen were able to practice communicating with other members as they would when they are deployed.”

This exercise is one of many ways the 49th Wing is adapting to increase readiness and improve efficiency for its members, both at home station and overseas.

“A lot of these bases downrange have been there for many years and are very established, so we’ve kind of moved away from running these types of exercises,” said Chapman. However, with the current National Defense Strategy, our next fight could look completely different. Having our Airmen get out and put their hands on the equipment, keep accountability, issue radios, and practice communicating between teams, without the pressure of lives being at stake, really gets the Airmen ready for what they’ll have to do when they get deployed.”

Source: Holloman Air Force Base Public Affairs, Senior Airman Corinna Sanabia, 49th Wing Public Affairs and Airman 1st Class Bobby Teichmann, 49th Wing Public Affairs contributed to this story.

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