Kingfish ACE: Developing Team Mildenhall’s future leaders

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christopher Campbell
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England – The 100th Air Refueling Wing hosted Kingfish Agile Combat Employment, a strategy-based tabletop war game set in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command theater here, Jan. 22 to 26.

Kingfish ACE is a weeklong event used as a dynamic tool for understanding, employing, and implementing RAF Mildenhall’s ACE and multi-capable Airmen initiative, enhancing the readiness and adaptability of Airmen throughout the U.S. Air Force as a whole. 

“The goal of Kingfish ACE at Mildenhall is to accelerate the training of Airmen and noncommissioned officers to employ forces in a combat environment,” said Master Sgt. Nathan Ryan, Kisling NCO Academy superintendent of faculty development. “As an instructor, my job is to facilitate the learning process and ensure that Airmen are prepared to support the force in the event of a future conflict.”

Facilitators guide participants through intricate simulated scenarios that reflect the strategic complexities of the real world throughout the tabletop.

“Kingfish ACE encompasses many different domains of warfare,” said Ryan. “Facilitators have the ability to include communication losses as well as cyber and kinetic attacks.”

The focus for Team Mildenhall’s Kingfish ACE is structured toward the ranks of senior airman up to master sergeant to prepare the future leaders of the Air Force.

“We're training our enlisted Airmen to be able to operate and make decisions in the absence of leaders,” said Ryan. “Facilitators watch how teams react and utilize their problem-solving skills to try to come up with tactical-level decisions and strategic thought processes.”

Kingfish ACE is also being utilized to include and instruct NATO partners and allies in Department of Defense strategies. 

“We are inspiring strategic and tactical-level thinking and implementing it in a medium that Airmen, allies, and partners can understand and adopt quickly,” said Tech. Sgt. Alexander Lopez, Kisling NCO Academy instructor. “It's a great way to visualize spoken concepts and gives everyone the opportunity to have a hands-on experience.”

ACE seeks to reduce reliance on traditional, fixed bases and static deployments. It instead embraces a dynamic approach to rapidly distribute, reposition, and operate from multiple dispersed locations.

“During World War II, the U.S. had around 90 bases located overseas,” said Lopez. “Now, we are hovering around 30. ACE is about being able to efficiently create and maintain a mission utilizing both Airmen and equipment.”

ACE aims to deny adversaries the advantage of predictability, while concurrently enhancing the DoD, NATO members, and allies’ capacity to respond swiftly to emerging threats.

“If 10 smaller bases are spread amongst different countries, that means there will be different allies and partners all supporting the war effort,” said Lopez. “The end goal here is to increase operational agility.”

With an increase of operational overseas bases, assistance from allies and partners, and Airmen performing the mission, the capacity to counter adversary aggression increases due to the implementation of ACE and MCA impacting operational predictability and force posture across the DoD.

“If a near-peer adversary engages in a conflict with us, then they're not attacking just the United States they're attacking our allies as well,” said Lopez. The ACE concept is further advanced by the implementation of MCA, which reduces the number of Airmen who may be put in harm's way to generate airpower as compared to traditional manning models.

The MCA concept includes Cross Utilization Training that provides Airmen with specific training to perform tasks outside their primary Air Force Specialty Code to support the mission at hand.

“We aren't talking about doing more with less when we speak about MCA,” said Lopez. “We want Airmen to have an open-minded approach, utilize their experiences and think critically about how they can problem solve.”

The U.S. Air Force requires a cultural shift in how it organizes, trains, and equips its forces so it can regain the high-end readiness to meet current challenges.

“With less permanent stations that we can operate out of overseas, we have to rely on our NATO partners and allies to give us the space and opportunity to operate,” said Ryan. “Our instructors have met with NATO partners and allies to communicate the importance of what ACE and MCA concepts do for our ability to compete with our adversaries.”

Team Mildenhall serves as the only permanent air refueling wing and Air Force special operations wing in the European area of responsibility, which is why the implementation of the ACE and MCA concepts are sought after.

The assets of RAF Mildenhall are instrumental to the global reach and special tactics capabilities of the DoD, NATO allies, and other defense partners. With the introduction of the ACE and MCA concepts, Team Mildenhall Airmen will be essential in the projection of combat capability and provide a ready force.