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Homeland Security

Jungle Shield exercise trains Airmen, federal agencies

by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Redente
36th Wing Public Affairs

9/4/2009 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNS) -- Airmen here and at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, participated in an exercise Aug. 25 through 27 to test the Air Force's ability to protect U.S. air sovereignty in the Pacific region.

The exercise, known as Jungle Shield, trains flying crews and ensures command and control requirements are properly executed, all to ensure Airmen in the Pacific theater are ready to defend U.S. air space.

"Following the attacks on 9/11, across the U.S. we saw the need to practice scenarios protecting the air sovereignty in the United States," said Col. Tod Fingal, the 36th Operations Group commander. "That expands to all U.S. territories reaching out to Guam."

During the three-day exercise, flying assets from the 36th OG participated in a variety of scenarios, while the event was led by 13th Air Force officials at Hickam AFB.

"For this particular exercise, the 36th Wing at Andersen AFB had aircraft deployed from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, the 525th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, providing our air defense fighters," Colonel Fingal said.

Also participating in the exercise were the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron deployed here from March Air Reserve Base, Calif.; the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed here from Barksdale AFB, La.; the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at Hickam AFB; and members of the 36th Wing command structure here.

With advances in technology, Air Force leaders at the 613th AOC in Hawaii were able to communicate with participating units in Guam, and command and control the operations.

"What we've been able to develop over time is a capability to link our command and control structure from Guam out to Hickam," Colonel Fingal said.

The 36th Wing here still mans an alternate air operations center as a precaution to any technical problems that may occur.

For this Jungle Shield, the 96th EBS and the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron were tasked to simulate targets of interest.

"The (aircraft simulating) targets of interest are heavy-type aircraft such as the B-52 (Stratofortresses) out of the 96th EBS," Colonel Fingal said, adding that it is important to use the actual aircraft in order to play out the scenario in real time.

"It allows us to execute the exercise itself and test that command and control structure, particularly the links between Andersen and Hickam, with live-flying aircraft with exact timing," he said. "Now, we understand the chain of the events that need to occur in order to defend Guam, and we're meeting those realistically based upon the live-fly scenario."

As a matter of standard practice, Air Force officials conduct Jungle Shield exercises using a range of scenarios, the colonel said.

"We train the worst-case scenarios, and for us the worst-case scenario would be a repeat of the events that occurred on 9/11," the colonel said. "We also train to something as simple as the aircraft in question simply lost its ability to communicate due to a radio malfunction."

Upon reaching the aircraft in question, the participating F-22 Raptor pilots assessed the aircraft and relayed their analysis back to officials at Andersen and Hickam Air Force bases, said Maj. Wade Bridges, from the 302nd Fighter Squadron. He is a F-22 pilot and the chief of scheduling attached to the 525th EFS.

"There are a lot of variables involved with it," said Major Bridges, who participated in the exercise Aug. 25. "We're basically up there to relay the best information we can down to the leadership."

The major said he gained valuable experience by participating in Jungle Shield.

"It's good to see, from a pilot's point of view, what's involved with the overall exercise -- from generals at Hickam, to everybody turning wrenches on the jet, and pilots figuring out where we're going," the major said. "There are a lot of people involved."

Federal agencies including the Federal Aviation Administration, the FBI, and the Coast Guard observed the Air Force's exercise Aug. 27. The agencies plan to integrate with the 36th Wing in future Jungle Shield exercises.

"This scenario allowed multiple agencies to collectively think about possibilities and discuss options in a less stressful situation," said Karen Lewis, Guam's FBI supervisory senior resident agent. "Ultimately our goal is the same -- to protect our people and our property -- and that can best be done by cooperative interagency efforts.

Agent Lewis said she hopes to integrate local law enforcement into future Jungle Shield exercises, providing them with the necessary skills to be prepared to provide the best response.

"In the next exercise, there is potential to pool all agency assets, providing some excellent training in the Marianas region," she said. "There are many benefits to involving ... local law enforcement agencies. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved."

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