Preparing for the unknown

  • Published
  • By Col. Joel Safranek, 436th Airlift Wing commander

The phrase “Full Spectrum Readiness” has been identified as a priority by our senior leadership extensively this last year…but what does it really mean? I don’t think there is a perfect definition because it depends on a variety of factors in an ever-evolving and complex global environment. As I understand it, Full Spectrum Readiness is a new way of thinking about an enemy and preparing for a different kind of conflict than what we have done for the past three decades. Conflicts of the future may see America facing off against an equal fighting force with the ability to strike us in a way we have not seen since World War II. This requires us to think about training, tactics and procedures in a whole new way; and it requires us to practice so it becomes second nature.

That is exactly what this base is going to do the last week of February through the first week of March as we participate in Exercise Jersey Devil. The 436th Airlift Wing and 512th Airlift Wing have partnered with four wings from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and two wings from Joint Base Charleston to test ourselves. The exercise will be broken down into two phases. Each base will fly away multiple aircraft to a forward location. Participating bases will simultaneously launch forces, exercising our abilities to mass mobilize personnel and cargo (Phase I). Each base will fly multiple aircraft to a forward location to simulate deploying. At that location, KC-10s, C-17s and C-5s will simulate flying combat missions through contested environments while ground personnel supporting these missions will be exercised against scenarios of their own (Phase II). If done right, the exercise will push Airmen beyond the basic survival training most associate with Full Spectrum Readiness.

Some interpret Full Spectrum Readiness to mean that Airmen must be prepared to fight in any scenario. With that, I ask you to consider how you can prepare to complete the mission with limited resources. How will you do your job without internet access? How will you do your job with limited or no communications? What about when cut off from command and control authorities? We have spent decades launching aircraft from Dover unimpeded. So how well can we continue to launch aircraft if the enemy hits us at home? Now throw in the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear challenges and Ability To Survive and Operate skills we normally associate with Full Spectrum Readiness. These are all a part of a new way of thinking and exercising. This is Full Spectrum Readiness in my mind, and this is how we need to prepare for the future.

I am excited to see the challenges the Inspectors General will throw at our Airmen, and I am excited to see how our Airmen respond. I don’t expect us to be perfect but the exercise gives us a great opportunity to test new concepts, record our lessons, analyze our shortfalls and be better prepared for the future. Oftentimes the hardest part of the exercise is not the physical stress of the scenarios, but actually capturing the lessons and applying them in the months following the exercise. So if you are part of the exercise this month, embrace the scenarios and the journey our wing and installation is going on because this journey will get us ready.