8/10/2012 - August 8, 2012 --
New facilities and another year of experience allowed the 217th Air Operations Group take its annual Exercise Objective Focus to the next level. Conducted from Aug. 6-9 at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base the training event tested the ability of the AOG to plan and direct operations halfway across the world.
"Normally, squadrons train individually, much as the various units like the offensive line and defensive line on a football team practice independently," said Maj. Ross Evenhouse, the project officer for Objective Focus. "This exercise gives everybody the opportunity to play as a full team."
Typically the scenario for an exercise is generated by the training or evaluation authority, often a Major Command. However, Lt. Col. Daniel McSeveney, who served as the Chief of Combat Operations, noted that almost all of the exercise was created in-house by the AOG itself.
"We have the Air Force Forces staff working with all of the Air Operations Center's divisions," he said. "We are learning valuable lessons to make us more effective in the future."
This approach allows the AOG to effectively test its ability to generate a plan and then carry it into execution.
Brig. Gen. James R. Wilson served as the Joint Forces Air Component Commander and the Commander of Air Force Forces for the exercise, his second time in such a role. "The experience of last year increased my awareness, allowing me to engage at a higher level," he said. Michigan's Assistant Adjutant for Future Missions, General Wilson also noted that the renovations to buildings 6922 and 6923 significantly enhanced the annual test of the organization's capabilities.
"The facilities are better but more importantly they are manned with the same motivated and dedicated Airmen we had the year before. Their enthusiasm is infectious."
Opened in June, the upgrades cost $10.6 million and provide a total of 60,783 square feet to enhance the 217th's command and control capabilities, allowing it to provide full-spectrum support to Air Force around the world and to emergency response efforts here in the State of Michigan.
"The new facilities are great," said 217th Air Operations Squadron Commander Col. Jeff Valle. "Our Air Operations Center is probably the finest of any Guard base and it rivals many active duty facilities. It is a phenomenal facility for any Air National Guard unit."
While officers lead the divisions within the AOC, enlisted members play critical roles. Chief Master Sgt. Lynn Demaree served as the Chief of Combat Operations Technician, the enlisted counterpart of the Chief of Combat Operations.
"The 'tech' is the eyes and years of the officer they work for," Chief Demaree said. "We keep them apprised of the battle as a whole and maintain their situational awareness."
Numerous deployments and individual training requirements make events like Objective Focus essential, said 217th Air Component Operation Squadron Commander Col. Douglas Henry.
"The purpose of the AOG is to translate guidance into achievable objectives, bringing strategy into tactical employment," he said. "This exercise is the first time we have been able to come together cross-functionally as a unit to do this. It has increased our capability and our capacity."