Seymour Johnson F-15s, Airmen Demonstrate New Expeditionary Concept

Airmen from multiple Air Force specialty codes perform a hot-pit refuel on an F-15E during the Combat Support Wing capstone on May 9, 2019, at Kinston Regional Jetport, N.C. A hot-pit is a term used to describe a jet being refueled on the ground while the engines are running. Air Force photo by SrA. Kenneth Boyton.

F-15Es and airmen from Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., recently proved a new type of deployment for the Air Force, with a small team of jets and multifunctional airmen standing up a small operating location.

Three teams of 30 airmen stood up an operating airfield at Kinston Regional Jetport, N.C., last week and flew operations simulating an austere environment, including those focused on defending the base, refueling, and rearming the jets, according to an Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center release. The airmen, from 15 different career fields, had to learn new skills to be able to support the operations in the month leading up to the event.

“We went from individual troops who had their skillset and a vague understanding about what everyone else was doing to now where you’ve got maintainers manning defensive fighting positions and cops helping refuel jets,” said MSgt. Jason Knepper, an Air Force Security Forces Center flight chief, in the release. “The construct for the multifunction approach is working really well.”

For example, an aircraft armament systems specialist also learned how to drive fuel trucks, palletize cargo, conduct tactical combat casualty care, and defend the base, the release states.

The concept, called the Combat Support Wing, was developed by AFIMSC in its 2017 conference and last week’s event was the final event in the rollout of the concept. The center is now producing a report for Air Force leadership.

It mirrors an emphasis from Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, laid out in his speech at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber conference last fall, to return the Air Force to “our expeditionary roots.”

Future fights will require the Air Force to operate from a few established bases in small and austere locations, with limited support and gear. While it is a “seminal shift,” it is something the Air Force has to do because “the fight is coming, and we have from this moment to get ready,” Goldfein said.