AVON PARK AFB, FL — A distinct and repetitious sound rumbles through the air above Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida as a U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft violently unleashes 4,200 rounds per minute from its 30mm hydraulic rotary cannon, breathing fire upon its target.
The nine A-10s from the 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan, provided close air support for a combat search and rescue scenario involving joint special operations forces during training exercise, Emerald Warrior, Jan. 22, 2019.
“Exercise Emerald Warrior is a certification and validation mission readiness exercise, which provides realistic and relevant readiness training to U.S. Special Operations Command forces and inter-agency participants in an irregular warfare scenario,” said Capt. Jason Davenport, the 107th FS Emerald Warrior project manager.
During the search and rescue scenario, Airmen from 127th Wing at Selfridge ANGB, trained as aircrew survivors of a simulated U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash involving a Black Hawk pilot with the 2-10 Assault Helicopter Battalion from Fort Drum, New York. Together, they navigated their way to safety through Avon Park’s 160,000 acres of austere terrain that is home to alligators, venomous snakes and other predators.
While very realistic and dangerous, these meticulously planned training scenarios strengthen joint forces’ training with a focus on tactical warfare.
“This is why we go through survival, evasion, resistance and escape training for situations like this,” said 1st Lt. Anthony Minissale, a 2-10 AHB Black Hawk pilot. “Evading the enemy while surviving the elements is crucial to determining whether someone lives or dies out here.”
When embattled survivors of a simulated Black Hawk crash are living on a prayer for safe passage and rescue, it is comforting knowing special tactical operation teams such as a U.S. Naval Special Warfare Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) and joint terminal attack controllers (JTAC) teams were there to assist.
“The SEAL and JTAC teams were proficiently quick and steadfast with getting us out,” said Minissale. “It’s a huge relief knowing they are on our side.”
According to Davenport, over the course of the day, it was a realistic warzone with thousands of 30mm rounds, multiple laser guided bombs and illumination flares being expended.
“Executing realistic and complex training missions alongside the Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command and Naval Special Warfare Command is invaluable because in real life situations, these partnerships strengthen our wartime capability and efficiency as a total, joint force with a singular mission priority,” said Davenport.
Although multiple and diverse mission partners came together for Emerald Warrior, each left with a larger understanding of their role in the mission, increasing their operational wartime tactical and strategic capabilities, which in short, is bad news for the bad guys