Operation Varsity 19-04 concludes

U.S. Air Force firefighters assigned to the 86th Civil Engineer Squadron simulate a decontamination line during exercise Operation Varsity 19-04, at Ramstein Air Base, Dec. 12. Operation Varsity is a reoccurring exercise designed to improve readiness when dealing with potential enemy threats and attacks. Photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer

As the New Year approaches, another exercise closes. The 86th Airlift Wing Inspector General and Wing Inspection Team members concluded Operation Varsity 19-04, Dec. 13.

This iteration included various simulated air and ground attacks throughout the wing’s area of responsibility and reached geographically separated units at Lajes Field, Portugal, and Morón Air Base, Spain.

The wing employed Operation Varsity each quarter throughout 2019 to enhance readiness and proficiency when responding to potential adversarial threats and attacks. Airmen from various Air Force specialties supporting the wing’s mission participated in the exercise which generated a myriad of scenarios.

“When we first began last spring with OV 19-01, we focused mostly on emergency management responses which relied on Emergency Medical Services, such as active shooter, fire, and Mass Accident Response Exercise situations,” said Lt. Col. Angela Stanton, 86th AW IG. “There were [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives] skills involved, but not to the extent that we exercise them now. Since then, we have modified intelligence scenarios to add realism and refined the exercise to react to more complex attacks while still accomplishing our daily mission.”

Every experience differed between Airmen, but the combination of those experiences became the backbone of the exercise.

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 569th U.S. Forces Police Squadron perform de-escalation tactics on an adversary during a simulated ground attack as part of exercise Operation Varsity 19-04 at Kapaun Air Station, Dec. 11. Security forces tested their ability to control a hostile situation. Photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer

“After every OV, we’ve had the opportunity to provide feedback, not only for how our office responded, but on the scenario itself,” said Capt. Michelle Fletcher, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs media operations chief. “We’ve provided feedback on how it could be altered or added to in order to make it more realistic, and the exercise has evolved each time. ”

With each iteration of OV, Ramstein’s readiness factor has only improved.

“We were more engaged and busier as the exercises evolved,” Fletcher said. “We went from simply reacting, to proactively planning while still operating under strained conditions. I’ve not only learned something new each time, but I’ve built on my lessons learned and definitely feel more ready to do it again than before.”

Maintaining operational status when faced with unexpected adversarial threats is a capability that requires training. The reoccurring exercise equips Airmen with the knowledge and competencies to do so.

“With OV 19-04, we focused more on aircraft generation and accomplishment of our primary mission in a contested and degraded environment,” Stanton said. “OV as a whole has allowed us to evaluate and execute our operational plan and, in turn, fix any deficiencies that would affect real world contingencies.”

Operation Varsity enabled Airmen to hone skills important to maintaining national security for both the U.S. and NATO allies.

“Exercising allows the 86th Airlift Wing to assess our capabilities while working with our partners so we will be ready at a moment’s notice, no matter the request,” Stanton added. “It also showcases our capabilities to potential adversaries and deters aggression because of it. Every Airman is able to identify how he or she fits into the wing’s combat mission, should the need arise.”

The wing plans to continue the Operation Varsity initiative in 2020.