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Home : News : News
NEWS | Feb. 13, 2024

Alamo Wing Airmen prove they are ready to go anywhere, anytime

By Julian Hernandez & TSgt. Jacob Lewis 433rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 433rd Airlift Wing proved their readiness to fly, fight and, win … anytime, anywhere with their successful completion of Exercise Dragon’s Den, a complex multi-day training event during the first week of February 2024 designed to train and test warfighting skills.

Roughly 150 Airmen from across the Alamo Wing worked together to simulate deploying to an airbase, setting up from scratch, and operating inside of a fictional allied nation while facing the possibility of hostile action from a near-peer adversary.

Exercise planners decided to approach this event differently than in years past.

“Currently what we are doing is preparing for an exercise or deployment to the Pacific Air Force area,” said Lt. Col. Wade Parks, 433rd Mission Support Group deputy commander and Exercise Dragon’s Den planner.

“It’s different than what we’ve been preparing for because we’ve been primarily focusing on Central Command, Middle Eastern operations,” Parks explained.  “As the environment changes around the world, we have to be able to prepare, react, and deploy for any of those changes.”

Alamo Wing members taking part in Dragon’s Den started their training by working through the administrative and logistical processes which need to happen before a deployment to ensure Airmen are setup for success.

Participants went through the same types of pre-deployment processes like checking paperwork and receiving briefings.

They then loaded onto a C-5M Super Galaxy with their gear for a simulated journey to the operating environment.

Once on the ground at a notional small island in the Pacific, the members setup to run airlift operations, all while staying vigilant against threats.

Airmen faced a barrage of security challenges throughout the exercise; ranging from a protest by an unruly mob upset at their presence, an attack by heavily armed gunmen, a possible chemical agent attack, and even an aircraft hijacking attempt.

“This exercise is where we want to find mistakes” said Lt. Col. Mark Howard, 433rd Security Forces Squadron commander and Exercise Dragon’s Den defense force commander.

“The feedback we get from this is invaluable” Howard noted. “Not only because of the experience it provides to young Airmen who may have never done it before, but also by testing our capabilities and seeing how far we can push their training and potentially improve it up until that point where they are called to support a real-world operation.”

Along with Airmen honing their skills as players in Exercise Dragon’s Den, an equally large contingent of inspectors and evaluators were alongside them, coaching and mentoring while ensuring training was conducted to standard.

“The ultimate objective is to identify our true state of readiness,” said Master Sgt. Jamie Ortega, 433rd AW Readiness Exercise Coordinator and lead planner for Exercise Dragon’s Den.

Ortega pointed out, “the goal is to make sure our Airmen are properly trained and equipped, so whenever they do deploy, we’ve put them in controlled environments and exposed them to realistic scenarios before, and they are able to execute the mission and come home safely.”

Beyond the opportunity to improve specific skill sets, Exercise Dragon’s Den allowed Alamo Wing reservists to build camaraderie and grow the bonds that bind units together in challenging moments.

Lt. Col. Christopher Jones, 356th Airlift Squadron commander and Exercise Dragon’s Den deployed combatant commander said getting those instances of teambuilding is particularly important because reservists typically only work together once a month.

“Often times, whether it’s an exercise or from actual combat, which I’ve experienced, there’s this interesting element that’s hard to articulate which helps things move along,” Jones noted.

“We’ve all experienced that here, that bit of teamwork, esprit de corps, and that gelling you get from doing these kinds of operations. That is something our members will take with them well after this exercise. The teamwork they learn here will set the foundation for any future ops they are part of.”