JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – LACKLAND, Texas --
Readiness was on the minds of 25th Air Force Airmen in 2017. While some practiced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities at Red Flag and other exercises, others migrated systems and took leadership roles across the Numbered Air Force.
In January 2017, the silent warfighters of the ISR and Cyber communities honed their operational skills and tested new capabilities during Red Flag 17-1 at the Nevada Test and Training Range north of Las Vegas. This event saw many firsts for the ISR warriors of 25th Air Force. It was the first time weapons systems and platforms identified Network Centric Collaborative Targeting as a desired learning outcome, said Lt. Col. Justin Tindal, chief, Futures Branch, Air Combat Command.
“The realistic warfare challenges at Red Flag create an ideal environment for capabilities, like NCCT, to prove their worth in a time-sensitive, task saturated scenario involving the integration of multiple ISR assets,” said Garland Henderson, former chief of the Operational Integration Branch at 25th Air Force.
On Feb. 17, 2017, Admiral Michael S. Rogers, commander, U.S. Cyber Command; director, National Security Agency; and chief, Central Security Service, held a town hall at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland to discuss the future of 24th and 25th Air Force and his push for integration.
Also in early 2017, a significant migration to better utilize the Air Force’s top secret communications system was accomplished within the Air Force Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System. As the migration neared completion in April, it consolidated all legacy Air Force and Air National Guard JWICS, synchronizing JWICS Air Force-wide. Previously, JWICS systems were owned and operated by individual commands and units in the Air Force. Over 100 individual sites, comprising 38 legacy domains, were identified for migration.
On Apr. 10, 2017, distinguished guests, Airmen from the 35th Intelligence Squadron and civilians met for the opening ceremony and ribbon cutting for the Cyberspace Threat Intelligence Center at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland. Brig. Gen. Peter Lambert, director of intelligence, Headquarters Air Combat Command, and Airman First Class Maggie, 35th IS, the youngest Airman assigned to the CTIC, cut the ribbon to open the center.
“CTIC builds on the 35th Intelligence Squadron reputation as a valued asset to Cyberspace Operations,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Castillo, commander, 35th IS. “This center serves as a focal point for operations, harnessing a purposely-designed organizational construct to enable the synchronization and prioritization of squadron intelligence activities while managing cross-organizational capabilities and information sources to improve intelligence reporting.”
Also in April, members of congress were briefed on the Air Force Technical Applications Center’s nuclear role. U.S. Representative Bill Posey paid a visit to the AFTAC to receive an update on the center’s nuclear treaty monitoring role and its involvement in recent global events.
Posey and others met with Col. Steven M. Gorksi, AFTAC’s commander, and members of his staff, for an in-depth mission briefing and to bring the congressman up to speed on AFTAC’s capabilities regarding past and potential worldwide nuclear detonations. The congressman was briefed on AFTAC’s scientific contributions to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as well as underground disturbances the center detected in the vicinity of North Korea in January and September 2016.
From April 24 to 28, 2017, experts from AFTAC participated in Prominent Hunt 17-1, a combined counterterrorism exercise between the governments of the United States and Canada to collectively test each nation’s ability to respond to two simulated nuclear post-detonation attacks. The exercise took place in Halifax, Nova Scotia. One of the goals of the exercise was to enhance U.S. and Canada’s ability to collaborate in the aftermath of a terrorist attack to determine who was responsible.
In May 2017, looking across the flight line at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, during the Northern Edge exercise, one would have seen a mass of gray and white aircraft, along with this year’s new addition, the distinctly black U-2 Dragon Lady from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale Air Force Base, California.
“It’s a big stepping stone for us,” said Maj. Dustin, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron, Wing Tactics Office, weapons school development branch chief. “It’s the first year the U-2 has participated in Northern Edge. The fact that we have forward deployed to Alaska, we’ve taken over 130 personnel from the 9RW and deployed them out to JBER is an achievement.”
On May 17, 2017, the Airmen of the 70th ISR Wing welcomed their new commander during a change of command ceremony at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. Col. Matteo Martemucci is a career intelligence officer.
On May 31, 2017, Maj. Gen. Mary F. O’Brien took command of 25th Air Force at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland. Maj. Gen. Bradford "B.J." Shwedo relinquished command during the ceremony, presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, Commander of Air Combat Command.
“It’s truly, truly a great honor to take command of 25th Air Force today,” O’Brien said. “I want to thank General Holmes for placing his trust and confidence in me. Sir, I look forward to serving under your command and partnering with my fellow NAF (Numbered Air Force) commanders to achieve new challenges that you set out for us.”
The Fightin' Fifty-Fifth, Air Combat Command’s largest wing, welcomed a new commander during a change of command ceremony June 8, 2017. Col. Michael Manion assumed command of the 55th Wing from Col. Marty Reynolds during the time-honored military ceremony inside the Bennie Davis Maintenance Facility.
On June 13, 2017, the realignment of the 319th Air Base Wing, Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, to ACC became effective. The move, an agreement between the commanders of Air Mobility Command and Air Combat Command, aligned Grand Forks, which hosts active duty RQ-4 Global Hawk operations, under the Air Force Major Command that organizes, trains and equips Airmen to perform the service’s remotely-piloted aircraft mission.
“This realignment places a base that is focused on the RPA mission under the command with responsibility for it,” said ACC Commander Gen. Mike Holmes. “I have no doubt that by streamlining the organization, we can find new and better ways to support and carry out this important mission.”
Prior to the realignment, on June 6, 2017, Col. Benjamin Spencer took command of the 319th ABW.
In July, Col. Jonathan C. Rice IV took command of the 363rd ISRW.
“I'm confident that Colonel Jon Rice is the perfect fit to take command of the 363rd, and I know he will continue the tradition of success and culture of innovation started by Col. Stevenson,” the 25th Air Force Commander said in her remarks. “I look forward to watching these amazing Airmen under his leadership.”
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson visited 25th Air Force Airmen during her trip to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Aug. 3, 2017. The visit began with Wilson being introduced to 480th ISRW leaders, where she also witnessed the importance and innovative concept of the wing’s Airmen Resilient Team.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright received a cryptologic familiarization tour at the 70th ISRW, Aug. 16, 2017, at Fort George G. Meade. During the CMSAF’s visit he conversed with the Airmen about topics concerning airmanship, professionalism and future enlisted Air Force initiatives
Later in August 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding in Southeastern Texas, near 25th Air Force headquarters, and nearly 3,000 Texas National Guard and Texas State Guard members were called up to help their fellow citizens. Harvey is the strongest storm to hit Texas since 1961, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said.
Then, in September 2017, in the wake of a confirmed nuclear test in North Korea Sept. 3, members of the AFTAC balanced the requirement for its 24/7 no-fail nuclear detection mission to continue with the need to evacuate as Hurricane Irma barreled up Florida’s peninsula.
Four days before the massive Category 3 storm made landfall in south Florida, AFTAC leadership made the decision to relocate its critical operations to its alternate location. Once Airmen were in place and all systems were set up to accept the mission, the headquarters took the necessary steps to evacuate more than 385 Airmen and nearly 2,000 family members from the area.
Twenty-Fifth Air Force wrapped up the year with the annual anniversary celebration in September. The highlight of the week was the Hall of Honor induction ceremony where Airmen recognized four of their extraordinary predecessors. Honorees for 2017 were: retired Col. William D. W. Grimes, retired Lt. Col. Paul J. McKenna, retired Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth C. Maynard and retired Chief Master Sgt. Jesse L. Greene.
Honoring extraordinary ISR Airmen is an important part of the annual anniversary of the enterprise, and the Airmen of 25th Air Force will continue to build their legacy in 2018.