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18th Wing aircrews excel in DMO Turkey Shoot

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Angelique Perez
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
18th Wing aircrews showed their skills in a virtual combat environment recently during Air Combat Command's second annual Combat Air Forces simulator competition. The Distributed Mission Operations Turkey Shoot, held Dec. 8-12, placed F-15 and E-3 AWACS crews from ACC, USAFE and PACAF in realistic defensive counter air scenarios against 4th generation advanced threat aircraft. 

Kadena's 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron was named the top AWACS squadron in the competition, and Kadena's DMO team of four F-15C pilots and three AWACS crew members received first place honors. 

Using flight simulators linked together in cyberspace, the Air Force uses DMO to allow geographically separated units to conduct realistic training in a virtual environment. In the CAF DMO Turkey Shoot, F-15 pilots and E-3 AWACS crews from the 18th Operations Group were tested on their ability to perform as a team and to react to dynamic threat situations in simulated combat scenarios. 

The competition involved defending a designated airspace for 30 minutes, according to Col. Ronald Banks, 18th OG commander. "The air threats had advanced electronic attack capabilities, along with advanced weapons." 

It was a very close competition, according to the colonel. 

"The evolution of air superiority assets around the world doesn't guarantee we will always be dominant," said the colonel, "but the sound training and tactics that were demonstrated in the Turkey Shoot are what we need to keep our edge in war." 

For the F-15 drivers, the scenario required flying in a four-ship formation, which provides the most realistic and complex training possible, according to Col Banks. 

"My four-ships were comprised of more senior pilots who don't get to fly as much now as the younger pilots, yet we won." 

Simulators have advanced over the last decade and provide a realistic training environment for aviators. While they help to supplement pilot training, however, Col. Banks stresses there is no substitute for the real deal. 

"In short, the best experience is only accumulated by actual flying," said the colonel. "We have got to get our younger pilots more flights in the most demanding scenarios to ensure we retain dominance in the air when the nation calls," the colonel said. 

According to Maj. Michelle Shicks, Chief of Wing Weapons and Tactics with the 18th Operations Support Squadron and a member of the top AWACS team, Kadena's diverse mission prepared the team well to succeed in the competition. 

"The 18th Wing has a huge capability of having collocated assets, like F-15Cs and E-3s, that allow us as warfighters to maintain and improve our tactical edge," said Maj. Shicks.

The commander of the 961st AACS agreed.

"The key to our success is that we train day in and day out with our "go-to-war" team," said Lt. Col. Rene Romero. "We train as a team, we win as a team. Our aircrews continually brief, execute, and debrief on an almost daily basis. This is what gives our diverse combat wing such great strength."
Kadena's first-place DMO Turkey Shoot Team consisted of: Colonel Banks, Col. Jon Wolfe,18th OG deputy commander, Lt. Col. Joseph Coogan, 18th Operations Support Squadron commander, Maj. Robert McMurry, 18th Operations Group, Maj. Shicks, Maj. Michael Thomas, 18th OSS and Staff Sgt. Sam Wagner, 961st AACS. Major Shicks, Maj. Thomas and Staff Sgt. Wagner were also recognized as the top overall AWACS team. First Lt. Nathan Jurgens was also named the top AWACS lieutenant in the competition.