Angel Thunder 15: Adapt or Perish

Moffett Federal Airfield, Calif. -- With any training exercise comes a certain level of uncertainty. This ambiguity, however, does not foster fear or trepidation but allows military members to adapt and overcome obstacles just as they would while deployed. The key is to determine mission readiness by testing key components such as different terrains, network competences and equipment capabilities. Angel Thunder 15 provided participants with the opportunity to hone these skills as they prepare for future deployments.

Angel Thunder is the largest multinational and joint training exercise in the Air Force, focusing on personnel recovery through realistic deployment scenarios. Its location, Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., provides a multitude of training environments from California coastlines to harsh desert terrain.

Maj. Michael Wagle, a C-130P Aircraft Commander and Evaluator Pilot with the 130th Rescue Squadron, believes that Angel Thunder caters perfectly to 'rescue warriors. '
"We can do anything from high-altitude hot operations to maritime rescue," said Wagle, noting the exercise provides the experience of having to change mission settings with minimal turnaround.

Each scenario during Angel Thunder is meant to test not only boots on the ground, but also every aspect of mission capabilities and resources. One main challenge--how units can manage to communicate with each another. Though technology typically enables communication with ease, in other instances it can stop airmen dead in their tracks.

"My major obstacle was having no Internet. I need the Internet to do my job," said Staff Sgt. MJ Jordan Delacruz, who provides administrative support for the 129th Rescue Squadron. "Thankfully I was able to network with people that had access and I was able to perform my job." 

Connectivity is a real issue for deployed members, as coordination with multiple units in different countries is vital to the success and safety of every mission. Good communication skills are paramount, especially to maintain safe air spaces. The sheer size of Angel Thunder's capabilities places airmen in situations they normally would not face unless deployed.

"It's great to be able to talk to people from other bases and even other countries," said Airman 1st Class Brandon Lukenbill, Radio Operator with the 130th Rescue Squadron.

Exercises also provide the chance to focus on future considerations. As with deployments, training highlights the positives and negatives of needing quick turnaround times in order to get rescue personnel on scene. Maintaining a constant flying pace proved difficult for older aircraft.

"The maintenance crews are working through the night to overcome that obstacle," said Wagle. "The operations aren't going to end. Any sort of large force deployments are going to have logistical problems and maintenance problems."

The end result of the two week exercise was that airman, soldiers, Marines, and all other who participated will be ready for the missions ahead.

"Angel Thunder has definitely prepared me for my deployment," said Airman 1st class Alvin Luyon, an Aviation Resource Manager with the 129th Rescue Squadron. According to Luyon, Wagle offered first-time participants and deployers some good advice: "Show up, and be flexible."

Though missions may not go as planned it is important to realize the bigger picture--the purpose of rescue warriors is to recover those whose plans also did not go the way they thought they would.

Because no one plans to be rescued.