158th Fighter Wing airmen demonstrate ACE concept in Estonia

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VERMONT AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Vt. – Thirty-five multi-capable Airmen from the 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard forward deployed from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany to Amari Airbase, Estonia to exercise Agile Combat Employment, July 6-15.

ACE is a U.S. Air Force concept that allows decentralized flying operations with a minimal footprint to provide rapid movement at short notice.

“The proof of concept was effective at showing NATO partners that the USAF was able to rapidly deploy to allied nations and perform 5th generation fighter aircraft operations at non-USAF locations,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Oddy, 158th Operations Support Squadron airfield manager.

While at Amari Airbase, the 158th FW completed 28 sorties and 76 flying hours, providing the Baltic nations border security during the ongoing tension between Ukraine and Russia.

“We were embedded with members of the Belgian, French and Royal Air Forces,” said Maj. Matthew Dickson, 134th Fighter Squadron pilot. “Agile combat employment affords airmen with the 158th Fighter Wing the opportunity to work in other career fields that are not normally combined. The members selected have been trained on tasks that directly result in sortie generation, which for most of the members is not part of their primary job.”

All participating airmen contributed many skillsets to the deployment and were crucial to its success.

“Upon arrival, the ramp required multiple efforts to house the F-35. The team came together and had the ramp ready for the first aircraft arrival within two hours,” said Oddy. “Over the course of five days, members from 10 different Air Force Specialty Codes, including maintenance and operations personnel, completed more than two hundred maintenance tasks, 36 lightning rod setup and tear downs, and managed more than 5,000 tools and pieces of equipment. Their hard work, dedication, and willingness to learn new tasks directly resulted in the U.S. Air Force providing assurance for NATO nations while deterring adversaries.”  

In addition to working alongside NATO allies, the deployment provided the opportunity to work with counterparts from other bases.

“We had the distinct pleasure of working with five other Air Force units from around the globe – including Moody, Nellis, McChord, Spangdahlem and Ramstein,” said Dickson. “These five bases contributed to security, transportation, deployment and redeployment processes and F-35 data collection testing. Without their support, the agile aspect wouldn’t have been as successful as it was.”

Ultimately, the deployment demonstrated the effectiveness of the ACE concept, particularly in dynamic environments.

“The ACE concept spans across the entire Air Force mission and when it comes to sortie generation, this small task force showed just how effective the concept is and will continue to be with allied support,” said Oddy. “Members of the Vermont Air National Guard continuously display their ability to adapt and change with the surrounding environments and have set the standard for the Air Force initiative known as ACE.”