TACP Conduct Exercise Hustler Flag

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Adrian Salazar
  • 49 Wing Public Affairs

A team of Airmen and Soldiers from Fort Bliss, Texas, came to Holloman Air Force Base and Cloudcroft, New Mexico, May 17 for Exercise Hustler Flag 22-1 for the first time.

Although this exercise has been performed by TACP units in the United States Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. European Command, this is the first time Hustler Flag has been practiced in the southwest and it will provide needed feedback to improve the joint force.

Exercise Hustler Flag is a two-day readiness exercise designed to test Tactical Air Control Party, command and control, precision strike and joint integration capabilities in a contested, degraded and operationally limited environment. The CDO environment allows TACP airmen to push their skills and capabilities to the limits and to test their training practices.

“We need to conduct more training events in a CDO environment where the advantages that we have previously enjoyed are no longer afforded to us in order to ensure we are prepared for future conflicts,” said Maj. Christopher Ela, 7th ASOS assistant director of operations.

With a total of ten organizations, including three TACP squadrons, a combat communications squadron, an Army aviation battalion, two attack squadrons, medics from an armor battalion, and the Border Patrol Tactical Unit, all three training objectives were met.

“The primary purpose of this exercise is to test our ability to establish and maintain long-haul communications throughout various locations,” said Ela. “We successfully achieved good two-way high frequency communications…we are pleased with the level of performance demonstrated by every operator, supporter and enabler.”

The secondary purpose is conducting sustainment operations while conducting the traditional mission of precision strike. To perform this, they needed to carry enough equipment to last throughout the exercise, meaning their ruck sacks could weigh up to 100 pounds, all while trekking through the dense forests of Cloudcroft at almost 10,000 feet elevation.

“We carried enough food, water and gear to last us three days out here and carrying it through roaming hills at around 9,000 to 10,000 elevation was certainly not fun,” said 1st Lt. Joseph Messare, 7th ASOS strike team lead. “By doing that we were able to learn what gear we brought wasn’t needed and what gear could have been more useful and improve that for next time.”

On top of these two objectives, a Border Patrol Tactical Unit was sent into the woods to attempt to find them to accomplish the third purpose of the exercise.

“Third, we also want to test new employment concepts in which Precision Strike Teams are employed within an enemy’s missile engagement zone in order to advance Joint Force Air Component Commander equities,” said Ela.

Communicating with Holloman AFB MQ-9 Reaper pilots allowed Messare and his team to positively identify the Border Patrol unit before they were found.

“This exercise highlighted where we need to evolve our weapons system in order to continue solving command and control, and targeting problems on behalf of the Joint Force Land Component Commander, and Joint Force Air Component Commander,” said Ela. “We will continue to advance towards this transformation not just because we want to, but because the Joint Force will need it against peer adversaries.”