They called us jaded: 181st IW hosts Jaded Thunder

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Roland Sturm
  • 181st Intelligence Wing

HULMAN FIELD AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Ind. (Oct. 2, 2021) -- Airmen assigned to the 181st Intelligence Wing went into overtime to host and support a joint exercise, Jaded Thunder, at Hulman Field Air National Guard Base Aug. 16 to 26.

The 181st Intelligence Wing, in partnership with the Terre Haute Regional Airport, hosted the live-fire exercise Jaded Thunder. Jaded Thunder is a joint Department of Defense military exercise involving conventional and special operations forces.

“It was a great opportunity,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Craig Maschino, chief of wing plans integration and execution at the 181st IW and a Terre Haute local. “They [members assigned to the wing] were able to brush up on some of those skills that they don't always get to use. Having active duty here partnering with the Air National Guard to provide a premier exercise like Jaded Thunder -- it’s definitely showing total force integration, and that's what we saw.”

The 181st IW and THRA combined have a 9,020-foot primary runway, a 7,200-foot alternate, crosswind runway, over 1 million square feet of ramp space, 1,465 acres of land and hundreds of thousands of square feet of building space available for exercises and operations. The THRA also maintains its standing noise abatement, and the surrounding 8,000 acres of undeveloped land fall within federally designated Opportunity Zone 18167010600/EO 13946.

“We have the facilities for aircraft to launch and recover from [and] facilities to do the maintenance,” said Maschino. “We have the impact range at Atterbury, the whole regional support group, we have Muscatatuck for them to operate on the ground, as well as some other places.”

The increased activity and movement drew immediate attention in the community, rekindling memories and excitement of still fresh stories from a once active fighter wing. Public-facing F-15E Strike Eagle and MV-22 Osprey aircraft operating from THRA drew enthusiastic spectators daily. In the background, F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft once again taxied nostalgically down the 181st IW’s own flightline for launch.

181st IW Airmen joined members from active components, putting in long hours, nights and weekends to provide support to over 1,200 personnel throughout the exercise. The combined accomplishments and dedication of these members facilitated the support necessary to successfully carry out numerous training sorties launched from Hulman Field.

“This was sort of a microcosm of what happens when you deploy,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Lance Hopper, group commander of the 181st Mission Support Group and resident of Brownsburg, Indiana. “You go to a larger installation, it has a myriad of aircraft, a myriad of services, major commands, [and] people from all over the country coming together to execute a mission.”

The timely movement of personnel and equipment is a key factor when considering any operation. The extensive requirements of Jaded Thunder and supporting assets flexed the muscle of the 181st Logistics Readiness Flight, who were able to not only meet those needs head-on, but even beat the expected timelines.

“Security forces and logistics had a great system going to get that mass amount of trucks onto the base before the exercise so they were ready to execute the exercise,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Wood, the deputy group commander of the 181st MSG and a Terre Haute, Indiana local. “Then we had to reverse and get 150 trucks on and off base to get the equipment off. It was planned to be done in three to four days, and we got it done in two and a half days.”

181st IW members were able to carry out the logistics of over 150 inbound and outbound shipments, ensure the secure control and storage of munitions and weapons from various platforms, secure restricted and operations areas, and provide safe escort for necessary personnel movements throughout the exercise.

“The 181st is constantly looking for how we can contribute to the fight, what can we do better, how can we expand our role [and] our training opportunities for our folks, [and] how we can utilize some of the facilities we have left over from the aircraft days,” said Hopper. “To do it at this magnitude just proves that we can do it at almost any scale. Other entities may have training that they need to accomplish. We can show them we hosted Jaded Thunder. We hosted it effectively. We can bring them here to Terre Haute, Indiana and help them get different training, and unique training, instead of going to the same place year after year.”

One of the critical but often overlooked considerations for a successful exercise is the community support and partnership factor.

The 181st IW command chief, U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Robert Hackett, a local to West Terre Haute, Indiana, explained the vital role the community council and partnerships had in the planning and execution of portions of the exercise.
“Bring the noise back was the theme,” said Hackett. “They wanted to hear the noise. We had the great support of the community coming out here [and] to the airport. There was one couple that came out every day from noon to six each day to watch the aircraft for almost the whole two weeks.”

Hackett went on to explain the importance of that community support to coordinate and provide billeting and transportation for exercise personnel, as well as bringing food trucks out on base to provide food for those working operations that can make it difficult to leave base during the day.

Indeed, the various assets positioned at Hulman Field display the flexibility and capacity to successfully support multiple platforms, domains, partners and mission sets. Department of Defense personnel conducted simultaneous operations employing dozens of air assets over a 10-day span.

The eager and collective coordination efforts between the 181st IW, THRA and local community members provided not only the necessary equipment and facilities but also a positive local atmosphere, which was consistently mentioned by exercise participants. The exercise participants and support pieces had a positive impact on the local community as well, with the exercise estimated as having generated over $3 million into the local economy. Altogether, the exercise participants and 181st IW are estimated to have generated $6 million in spending toward the local economy.

The Indiana Air National Guard maintains three unique ranges that provide a specific function and allow for the unique operations training situations that appeal to a multitude of military units’ training requirements, including multi-domain considerations as well as the ability to operate in realistic, joint air and ground operation scenarios.

“We don't fight in one domain anymore,” said Maschino. “We don't fight wars just on sea, or just in the air, or [just] on the land. [The 181st IW and the Indiana National Guard’s training facilities] allow for that multi-domain operational training that we need to have.”
Indeed, the 181st IW has a variety of air ranges to facilitate training.

Jefferson Range is located on 1,033 acres in the northern third of Jefferson Proving Grounds in Ripley County, Ind., and it is maintained by 181st IW personnel. The range features 14 Weapons Impact Scoring System-Mission scored targets, three air-scored targets, three strafe targets (DH-3 scored), two 20 mm targets, one 30 mm target and one 2.75-inch rocket target.

The 181st IW also has a smaller air range providing additional training space.

Range 36 Air-to-Ground Gunnery is located about 20 nautical miles south-southeast of Indianapolis at Camp Atterbury. Associated special use airspace is R-3401, covering 103 square miles. The terrain is hilly and wooded, permitting a good mix of highly visible and terrain-integrated targets. In addition, several low-altitude routes are available.

Moreover, the Indiana National Guard provides unique training at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center.

Muscatatuck Urban Training Center offers users a globally unique, urban and rural, multi-domain operating environment recognized as the Department of Defense’s largest urban training facility. Muscatatuck is a real city with physical infrastructure, dense urban terrain, a cyber-physical environment, an electromagnetic effects system, and human elements. Muscatatuck’s urban terrain touches all five domains – land, airspace, cyberspace, maritime, and space – plus the electromagnetic spectrum and the information environment.

That facility provides a large training area for service members to train on operations.

“Muscatatuck Urban Training Center is basically a city in itself,” said Maschino. “[It has] all of the facilities on hundreds of acres that operators can go in and train different tactics and techniques in. It has its own power plant, cyber range [and] subway system. All those things make it unique.”

That uniqueness provides for unique training opportunities for service members.

“Whether it's downrange training or whether it's domestic operations with the town that they can flood, there's just so much you can do,” said Maschino. “Members can go into whatever type of environment they want to train in [and] they can replicate that at Muscatatuck. Then you put the airspace above it, you include a range where they can drop weapons at Camp Atterbury in close proximity -- all of that tied together is what really drives this.”

Moreover, Hulman Field itself provides facilities to support flying activities.

Hulman Field ANGB is home to two hangars, two runways, and various air support facilities. The 181st IW was previously home to the 181st Fighter Wing, with F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft utilizing the ramps. In 2008, the 181st Fighter Wing was re-missioned and designated the 181st Intelligence Wing, leaving previous air support facilities to be retrofitted and repurposed to support non-flying missions. While those facilities no longer support aircraft as a daily function, the infrastructure and functionality are still intact and easily spun back up to support air assets. In addition, Hulman Field maintains community and industry relationships as well as upholds the standing noise abatement that has existed since the days of operating aircraft.

“Aircraft are inherently noisy and loud, and the fact that we're not in a major metropolitan footprint makes it an attractive place to be able to do fighter operations, mitigate risk around the airport, and [capitalize on] that noise abatement that’s been in place,” said Maschino. ”I think what's key about Jaded Thunder, and how successful it was for their training, is a good indicator that other major exercises may want to come here and try to replicate what they did with our same facilities, same ranges [and] same airspace.”

The proximity to Indiana’s ranges and training grounds, paired with uncongested airspace, long runways and ample amounts of ramp space made operations from Hulman Field ideal for the training and operation objectives of Jaded Thunder. The success of the exercise is proof of a concept that Racers, a nickname used for members of the 181st IW, have talked about since jets departed the operational flightline of Hulman Field in 2007.