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12th Air Force hosts first Blue Flag in two years

A rare look inside the Gen. James H. Doolittle Combined Air and Space Operations Center facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The facility is one of five "Falconer" CAOC weapons systems used to support geographic combatant commanders worldwide-- this designates an air operations center that is fully connected and capable of facilitating air; space and information operations worldwide. The other Falconer CAOCs are located in Southwest Asia, Europe, Korea and Hawaii. Each Air Operations Center has responsibility over a specified geographic location and mission.

A rare look inside the Gen. James H. Doolittle Combined Air and Space Operations Center facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The facility is one of five "Falconer" CAOC weapons systems used to support geographic combatant commanders worldwide-- this designates an air operations center that is fully connected and capable of facilitating air; space and information operations worldwide. The other Falconer CAOCs are located in Southwest Asia, Europe, Korea and Hawaii. Each Air Operations Center has responsibility over a specified geographic location and mission.

DAVIS-MONTHAN AFB, Ariz. -- More than 900 U.S. and coalition forces from around the globe are preparing to battle a new enemy -- the fictitious nation of "Califon," an aggressive nation bent on controlling the mineral fields located on the island of "Pacifica."

The scenario is part of exercise Blue Flag 07-2, the first of the operational-level exercise events dedicated to training Combined Air Operations Center staff for war in more than two years. CAOC staffs devise complex Air Tasking Orders to protect coalition bases and expel enemy forces in disputed territories.

Unlike many Air Force exercises, the air campaign over "Califon" and "Nevidah" isn't flown by aircrews; missions unfold on the massive modeling and simulation systems located at Hurlburt Field, Fla. and are fed back into systems in the James H. Doolittle Combined Air Operations Center at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. -- simulating everything from successful air strikes to downed aircraft and insurgent activity.

"Blue Flag 07-02 is designed to train combat leaders and supporting battle staff participants in the efficient and effective employment of air power," explained Col. Leonard Moskal, the 505th Distributed Warfare Group commander and officer-in-charge of controller staff for Blue Flag. "An integrated air campaign -- reacting to enemy strategy and real-time events in a dynamic environment -- can only be simulated in a virtual environment."

Blue Flag exercises, teach strategy, planning procedures, targeting, execution and processes to employ air, space and information operations in a major theatre campaign. In order to trigger exercise participant's battlefield tactics, techniques and procedures, the entire CAOC is brought up to wartime manning. Every branch of the military, coalition participants and support staff deployed to Davis-Monthan AFB to augment the modest Air Forces Southern CAOC staff. Coalition participants include military personnel from Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Blue Flag 07-02 began with three days of academic training, with a four day scenario designed to stress all elements of the CAOC during the campaign dubbed "Operation Restore Nevidah."

"During a typical day, the AOC and joint/coalition air staff will plan and execute an air campaign in support of the Combined Forces Commander's objectives consisting of more than 800 sorties, integrating a wide variety of Air Force assets involved in warfare -- everything from information operations, space, Army air defense assets, tankers, fighters, bombers, airlift and special forces," said Lt. Gen. Norman Seip, the Combined Forces Air Component Commander for Blue Flag and the 12th Air Force/Air Forces Southern commander. "We're challenging our senior staff to concentrate on the command and control of airpower at the operational level of war rather than thinking of tactical, or unit-level events."

"It's this focus on the operational level of warfare while hundreds and hundreds of Airman and joint/coalition partners execute their responsibilities that makes Blue Flag unique and beneficial for attendees -- from the young Airman to the three-star CFACC ," added General Seip.

The Airmen and joint/coalition personnel on the CAOC floor and in the "deployed" Air Forces staff (working to support the CFACC from thousands of miles away in Nevidah, but actually located just blocks from the CAOC in a nearby office building) are trained by peers with experience in each duty position, 12th Air Force general officers and CAOC senior staff are mentored by a team of retired military generals.

"The insight and experience our senior mentors bring to Blue Flag is invaluable," said General Seip. "Having an experienced CFACC assist my team brings a whole new perspective. They will often push our team in the right direction by saying 'you may want to look at this' or 'be sure to be cautious here'-- I can't stress enough how important it is to grow our future leaders by learning from our leaders and warriors of the past."

Blue Flag is scheduled to continue through June 28.

Note: TSgt Kerry Jackson contributed to this article.

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