JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Members that deployed with the 94th Fighter Squadron returned to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, from a rapid deployment in support of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility Dec. 19, 2020.
The 94th FS practiced Agile Combat Employment, dispersing U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors manned with small maintenance support teams to various locations throughout the Pacific. While on location, they practiced hot-pit refueling from a C-130J Super Hercules and integrated with the Republic of Korea Air Force, while participating in their annual large force training exercise.
Due to COVID-19 guidelines and precautionary measures, this deployment is unlike what members of the 94th FS have encountered in the past.
“While COVID-19 will remain a challenge to military operations, the virus did not stop the success of this operation due to our team’s vigilant adherence to well established safety protocols,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Crowell, 94th FS commander. “The 94th followed clean-corridor travel procedures both to and from each host base, medically pre-screening all ACE team members, isolating from local populace, and upholding CDC social distancing and face mask guidelines.”
The 1st Fighter Wing operated using Dynamic Force Employment (DFE) to mobilize a large scale of personnel on a short notice. This new Department of Defense strategy for deploying forces is designed to improve adaptability and preparedness while keeping U.S. adversaries on their toes.
“Knowing we could be tasked at a moment’s notice to deploy anywhere in the world for an unknown duration stretched our high-end training plans, our Low Observable fleet maintenance schedules, and preparation of equipment stockpiles,” Crowell said. “We’ll finish this deployment with substantially increased readiness as our Airmen have learned to take initiative and make smart risk-based decisions in autonomous and distributed ACE operations throughout the Pacific AOR.”
According to Crowell, the deployment was a great success for the 94th FS as they were able to achieve 100 percent of Higher Headquarter Directed mission tasks— meeting all Combatant Command’s objectives on time.
“This is the first overseas deployment of an integrated ops and maintenance F-22 squadron with our combined size of more than 300 Airmen, non-commissioned officers, officers, and civilians,” Crowell said. “I could not be more proud of the culture shift this unit has made over the past six months, transforming from two segregated organizations into one cohesive squadron focused on our mission, to provide air superiority on demand.”
In order for this rapid deployment to be successful, the 94th relied on its 633rd Air Base Wing partners, including the 633rd Logistics Readiness Squadron and 633rd Force Support Squadron.
“For the Logistics Readiness Squadron and everybody who works in the mobility machine, it was important for us to show that we can go from a stop movement of everyone staying at home in quarantine, to coming back to work, getting after the job and delivering the mission,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Valerie Hewitt, 633rd LRS installation deployment officer. “I think it's a really important show of force that we were able to safely and cleanly deliver hundreds of people and F-22s across the globe for a deployment, despite COVID, safely, and then returned them in a very short amount of time.”
In order to help facilitate this deployment, the 633rd LRS needed to make sure people and cargo were ready to be moved on a specific time schedule.
“The Logistics Readiness Squadron has a much larger footprint in getting the cargo ready,” Hewitt said. “It starts with us and planning to make sure that all the requirements are built, so that we have the airlift scheduled in the right sequence.”
To make sure the military members and civilians were ready to deploy, the 633rd FSS ensured that all members had the appropriate documentation ready to step at a moment’s notice.
“There were a lot of new challenges that we had to embrace, taking into account the medical needs of the members through COVID-19 testing and screening, and making sure that all the normal operations happened,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Sophia Konopka, 633rd FSS military personnel flight commander. “This deployment was unique in that it was the first one that we've accomplished since COVID-19 operations began.”
Konopka noted that the 633rd FSS had to overcome major hurdles created by COVID-19 during this deployment processing. Extra precautionary measures and testing were required to make sure all deploying members made it to their location safely and were able to return to JBLE safely.
Unprecedented circumstances arose that caused members at JBLE to adapt so the mission could be successfully executed. Members of the 94th FS, 633rd LRS and 634rd FSS worked in conjunction to ensure members and cargo were able to deploy instantly.
“This was a great opportunity to demonstrate the readiness of the first team,” said U.S. Air Force Col. David Lopez, 1st Fighter Wing commander. “It was a great opportunity to show that even during COVID-19, we had the ability to get out the door on short notice to go anywhere in the world. That's the mission of the 1st Fighter Wing and we can't do that alone.”