188th Operations Group completes Exercise CAS 3.0

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Sherlock
  • 188th Wing

EBBING AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ark. - The 188th Operations Group completed Exercise Close Air Support (CAS) 3.0 in Avon Park, Florida, from Jan. 29, 2024, to Feb. 8, 2024.

CAS 3.0 completed Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC) certification training tasks, with support from the 188th Wing and personnel from Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), Army, Navy, and other Air Force units. Additionally, it marked the inaugural Arkansas Agile Combat Employment (ACE) exercise, incorporating Satellite Launch and Recovery (SLR) procedures in a simulated downrange environment. The SLR segment was executed by the 147th Attack Wing maintenance team from Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, Houston, Texas.
“The exercise redefined how the Arkansas National Guard and the Air National Guard as a whole engage in continuation training through the utilization of ACE with SLR options,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Alexander, 188th Operations Group director of operations. “We are trying to meet those initiatives from higher-level Air Force headquarters directives and employing that into the continuation training process for each of our assets.”
A primary focus during the exercise was enhancing the ability to quickly turn an aircraft, which included launching, dropping inert bombs, landing, refueling and reloading, and launching again to repeat the process. Launching and receiving an aircraft with minimal turn time in an austere location demonstrates proficiency with the typical maintenance element support.
Pilots from the 188th Operations Group flew more than 92 hours during the exercise.
This was also Arkansas’ first integration with fifth-generation fighter aircraft, provided by the Vermont Air National Guard’s F-35 team. The CAS 3.0 team released 18 Guided Bomb Unit (GBU)-12 and GBU-38 inert bombs, and after the exercise the MQ-9s flew transcontinental across the Gulf of Mexico back to Texas.
“Our maintenance crew has improved so much,” said Capt. Cody, 147th Attack Wing MQ-9 pilot. “They’re on top of it and have lessons learned to take back home and into future operations. It’s huge that they were able to press the new future that the Air Force rolling forward.”

Besides learning valuable information for mitigating future contingencies, the maintenance Airmen were also able to interact with MQ-9 customers, such as JTACs, and see the impact of the maintenance team.
“It really bolsters your 'why,'” said Senior Airman Edward, 147th Attack Wing Maintenance Team. “It helps us understand how sometimes the airplane needs to get in the air right now, and we have to make sure we’re at our A-game so that the airplane is there when needed.”
The collective efforts enhanced combat readiness and increased lethality for combat readiness. Joint exercises like CAS 3.0 help Airmen and aid partners in building readiness, resilience, and contributing to the defense ecosystem outlined in the National Defense Strategy.