140th Airburst Range Operations Demonstrates Integrated Warfighting Capabilities

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kristin Haley
  • 140th Wing Public Affairs
On Friday, January 8 the 140th Wing Airburst Range facilitated their second scenario of the day dedicated to training the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS), Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) in combat operations, similar to missions they would encounter in Iraq or Afghanistan. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Heffron received his initial JTAC certification and will be using the skills he trained for on the Airburst Range in the next six months to support a battalion within the Army's 4th Infantry Division.
Although this was a JTAC-driven scenario, members of the Colorado Air National Guard, 140th Operations Support Squadron (OSS) Airburst Range, facilitated and supported the operation. They scheduled F-16 close air support from the New Mexico Air National Guard as well as controlled and deconflicted airspace. They also provided opposing force support and acted as insurgent forces, supplying realistic training aids such as smoke grenades and surface-to- air missile simulators.

"This is really our only opportunity to simulate real-life experiences we will encounter on the battlefield. Airburst range provides the ability to simulate realist scenarios that mimic what we will really see in the AOR," said Technical Sgt. Thomas C. Schaefer, 13th ASOS standardization and evaluation instructor. "I've been to a number of ranges and the 140th Airburst Range guys run the most adaptable range I've ever been to. Rather than a static scenario, we can move around battlefield and are forced to adjust our scenarios as we're provided such realistic targets. It forces the JTAC to practice all the skills he'll really need," he added.

The Airburst Range strives to make the range as dynamic as possible. "We are always changing things to make it a place that really mimics the current fight with vision to the future," said Major John Stevenson, the Airburst Range Commander. What makes this range so versatile is that multiple users perform a variety of functions. In addition to the traditional bomb dropping you always think of, the range also supports explosive ordnance disposal, small arms training, and three drop zones are used by folks like the Navy Seals and the 302nd Airlift Wing from Peterson Air Force Base. "We try to combine a variety of functions occurring on the range into our scenarios. For instance, if I've got EOD blowing things up in one area of the range, I'll incorporate IEDs into the scenario that we're running for a user. We really strive for a synergistic effect in our training out here," said Stevenson.

Airburst Range makes this all happen with only ten enlisted and two officer Air National Guardsmen on 832 acres of the Ft. Carson Range , which is leased and maintained by the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard. They control flights everyday and run about three scenarios a week on average.

This small group of Air National Guardsmen spend long days together as well. With the nearest convenience store more than 30 minutes away, the group eats lunch together, travels to and from the range together and their work schedule is driven by the needs of their customers. "We spend about 11 hours a day together and there's hardly a month we don't work a weekend outside of our normal UTA weekend," said Master Sgt. Manuel Gomez, 140th OSS Range Vehicle Maintenance NCOIC. The group has to get creative sometimes and will split shifts to accommodate a user that will do training well into the night. "We've got multiple customers in every branch of the Armed Forces, as well as civilian contractors but the bottom line is, if a customer needs us, we're going to make sure we're here and do everything we can to make it valuable training for them," said Stevenson.

Although the Airburst Range has the traditional AFSC's such as a vehicle maintenance, supply and communications, they find a system to make it all work. "We're a tight knit unit with a firehouse mentality," said Stevenson. Everyone is trained on a variety of range duties to include tower operations, building targets, fire fighting, bomb scoring, coordination and scheduling of range users and even heavy equipment operations. "For instance, our admin troop is a heavy equipment operations expert," said Stevenson. Also, the guys here have a lot of pride in their range and strive for individual ownership. Certain parts of the range or villages are designated to certain individuals and everyone pitches in as necessary when that person needs help. "We couldn't accomplish what we do here if everyone didn't help out. You're really a jack of all trades and other duties as assigned are the key here," added Gomez.

"I used to work in supply at Buckley and I really love my job here on the range. It has opened up so much for me. We really feel like we're integral to the warfighter. We see where it all comes together and where the tip of the spear gets sharpened," said Technical Sgt. Franco Aguilar, 140th OSS Range Supply technician.