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U.S. Airmen with the 5th Combat Communications Group (CCG) from Robins Air Force Base, Ga., set up the forward headquarters, or “tent city,” in preparation for Mission Readiness Exercise (MRX) 19-2, Shaw AFB, S.C., Nov. 26. Tent city included eight tents for the forward combined joint task force headquarters, a communications tent, cyber café and supporting equipment. In total, the 5th CCG delivered 16 pallets of equipment from Robins AFB to support MRX 19-2. The exercise was an initial operational capability certification event designed to demonstrate Ninth Air Force’s ability to effectively plan, prepare, execute and assess Combined Joint Task Force operations at the operational level of war as tasked by the Air Force Chief of Staff. 

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFNS) -- Ninth Air Force achieved certification as a Joint Task Force-capable headquarters Dec. 14, following the conclusion of Mission Readiness Exercise, or MRX, 19-2.

The exercise took place Dec. 10-14 and demonstrated Ninth AF has the initial operating capability, or IOC, to stand up as a JTF-capable HQ.

As part of the Air Force's strategic initiative to strengthen joint leaders and teams, Ninth AF will now provide the Defense Department with an air-centric capability to task during crisis operations and be offered as part of the dynamic force employment model to meet the DoD’s new National Defense Strategy for more integrated and multi-domain operations.

“The DoD added one more arrow to its joint quiver with Ninth AF’s IOC certification as a JTF-capable headquarters” said Maj. Gen. Scott J. Zobrist, Ninth AF commander. “Ninth AF will be a complementary asset to our joint partners whether in a supported or supporting role.”

MRX 19-2 was a culmination of a year’s worth of exercises that started in November 2017. Ninth AF now aligns with the Air Force chief of staff’s objective stated at the Air Force Association Air, Space & Cyber Symposium in September 2017—to be that viable Air Force option for the DoD.

Each staff exercise gave Ninth AF leaders a platform to enable Airmen assigned to the organization to become proficient in tasks required of a JTF headquarters staff.

“The STAFFEXs allowed us to build our processes and improve them from exercise to exercise; whereas, the MRX really allowed us to put them into practice and validate them,” said Col. Sean Cosden, J3 Operations Directorate director. “The MRX provided an opportunity with a large number of partners across the joint world, including our Air Reserve Component partners and coalition partners, to integrate and validate.

“The processes we were practicing were the same, and the STAFFEXs allowed us to look at different combatant commands and mission sets to build a broad set of capabilities as opposed to being narrowly focused. It’s that broad focus that enabled us to achieve IOC and paves the way to (full operational capability),” Cosden continued.

Throughout it all, Ninth AF leveraged the collective experience of Air Reserce Component members and joint partners both from Guard and Reserve units, as well as those assigned to the U.S. Transportation Command’s Joint Enabling Capabilities Command, or JECC.

“As part of our core competencies as an enabling capability, we have a ready force of planners and communicators who can deploy to help form a JTF with unique communication capabilities and joint planning experience,” said U.S. Army Col. Dana Stowell, JECC mission tailored package lead. “Our team members were able to gain valuable joint planning and JTF forming experience that enhances our capabilities to support the joint force. Every time we get to work with joint partners, we’re establishing important relationships and connections as those organizations move forward and continue to operate.”

MRX 19-2 expanded the role of Ninth AF’s partners with the addition of United Kingdom participants for international collaboration.

“The Royal Air Force’s role was absolutely about cooperation and interoperability,” said RAF Wing Cmdr. Philip Holdcroft, Ninth AF J3 exchange officer. “It was also a forcing function for Ninth AF to incorporate coalition members into the JTF and hopefully providing greater diversity of thought in planning. Also, the RAF participation is aligned with the standup of 11 Group, a multi-domain operations group. The RAF gained a shared understanding of how a U.S. Air Force JTF would operate and how the United Kingdom would integrate, complement and successfully reinforce the JTF.”

In addition, more than 30 Airmen with the 5th Combat Communications Group provided the integral communication piece of the JTF with an expanded Flexible Communication Package. The 93rd Air Ground Operation Wing’s 820th Base Defense Group from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, and 20th Wing at Shaw AFB provided Airmen dedicated to security and a camp commandant to facilitate different issues that arose at the forward headquarters.

In total, there were more than 250 participants at four locations across Shaw AFB. Ninth AF now turns its focus toward achieving full operational capability as a JTF-capable headquarters.

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