By Senior Airman Brooke Moeder, 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 03, 2021
A BlueSky Mast is assembled during Castle Forge in Romania, Oct. 27, 2021. The 606th Air Control Squadron and 4th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron used the BlueSky Mast to communicate with aircraft that participated in Castle Forge. (Courtesy Photo)
A BlueSky Mast antenna is shown during Castle Forge in Romania, Oct. 27, 2021. The BlueSky Mast is part of the Scalable Control and Reporting Agile Mission Kit (SCRAM-K) and was used to communicate with aircraft that participated in the exercise. (Courtesy Photo)
In support of exercise Castle Forge, 20 Airmen assigned to the 606th Air Control Squadron integrated with members from the 4th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron and 1st Combat Communications Squadron from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, October 26 through November 8 in Romania.
Operation Castle Forge was a U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Forces Africa-led, joint, multi-national operation which provided a dynamic, partnership-focused training environment that raised the U.S. commitment to collective defense in the Black Sea region while enhancing interoperability alongside NATO allies.
“There's no way we can do the mission here without the integration that we have with the other nations,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Daniel Eyrolles, 606th ACS chief of agile mission and tactical mentor during Castle Forge.
The exercise was executed in parts of Romania, Greece and Bulgaria. The 606th ACS conducted operations out of Romania and worked with the Romanian air force, Royal Canadian air force and U.S. Navy.
“We’re provided the opportunity to work together with joint and coalition assets, in a live and dynamic environment,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Howell, 4th EASOS commander. “Potential future conflicts can’t be fought unilaterally. We need to be able train with our partners throughout the world, in environments where we can work through problem sets together and learn from each other. Castle Forge provided us that environment.”
The 606th ACS and the 4th EASOS units integrated into different groups called Air Control Integration Teams. The teams from the Control and Reporting Center, and Tactical Air Control Party Weapons Systems joined together to develop new Tactical Command and Control tactics, techniques and procedures and capabilities for USAFE, said Howell.
“We were out there for about two weeks to support a joint-fire integration event for Castle Forge,” said Eyrolles. “We were communicating with aircraft, higher headquarters and U.S Navy assets.”
The teams developed tactics, techniques and procedures and defined roles and responsibilities amongst each other. Although each team had members from different units, they shared similar mission sets, said Tech. Sgt. Eric Gray, 4th EASOS noncommissioned officer in charge of operations.
“We worked and integrated primarily with the 606th ACS,” said Gray. “The really impressive thing is that ACIT teams are shaping how USAFE, at a minimum, fights and will fight in the future from what we see. The original idea came from just a couple of guys going from a patio all the way to strategic targeting capabilities. We would have never thought it would gain this type of traction. It makes all the difference when you work towards that goal as a team.”
Agile Combat Employment concept allows USAFE-AFAFRICA to move forces more fluidly across the theater to seize, retain and exploit the initiative against an adversary in any environment. One driving point behind ACE is the ability to move limited equipment and personnel to airfields that may not have a U.S. presence but still have the ability to operate.
The 606th ACS demonstrated ACE capabilities during Castle Forge by using the Scalable Control and Reporting Agile Mission Kit and setting up the system in approximately four hours. The BlueSky Mast is part of the SCRAM-K and was used to communicate with aircraft that participated in the exercise.
“The SCRAM-K gives us the capability to move quickly and set up command and control wherever it’s needed on the ground,” said Eyrolles. “It’s a capability we didn't have about a year ago or so and since then it’s been the primary line of effort for the 606th ACS. That's how we're executing missions in the theater because it's easy to pick up, move, and rapidly stand up for theater operations.”
Castle Forge demonstrated the joint force’s combined ability to respond in times of crisis with a flexible, reassuring presence.
“It takes a lot of pieces to come together to be able to do the missions that we do,” said Eyrolles. “Being able to get everybody in one place and get on the same page and same wavelength and get into a good tempo with each other was awesome.”