Alert Forces Evaluation
By Major Matthew T. Mutti, Wing Executive Officer, 104th Fighter Wing
/ Published April 10, 2010
Barnes Air National Guard Base, 104 Fighter Wing - Westfield, Mass -- April 6th began with a no-notice inspection as the Alert Forces Evaluation team arrived on base to evaluate the ability of the unit to perform the Air Sovereignty Alert mission.
The alert mission is very unpredictable and spontaneous, and the inspections are done in the same vein. With no notice, a team of inspectors can arrive and evaluate the unit, and that was just the case on April 6th.
Within minutes of their arrival the evaluation team began running scenarios and exercises to test all the functions of the alert team. The Command Post, Fuels, Munitions, ASA Maintenance, Operations and the alert crews were evaluated on their timeliness to respond and their abilities to recover after an active air scramble.
According to a NORAD press release the exercises utilized scenarios to test NORAD's response, systems and equipment. Scenarios could include counter-drug operations, aircraft in distress, aircraft defecting, hijacking, unknown aircraft, Dangerous Military Activity, Temporary Flight Restriction violation or airborne terrorist.
The exercises were conducted in the skies in the vicinity of the West-Central Vermont and Northeastern New York near the area of Glen Falls, N.Y. and Utica, N.Y. These exercises where on the coat-tails of two real-world alert scrambles on April 2nd and 4th, responding to a civilian aircraft that was identified to be in distress.
The inspection lasted two days, beginning with a general observation of the alert procedures and the remainder of the time digging through the regulations and processes in place to ensure continued success.
"The evaluation went very well, said Col. Robert Brooks, 104th Fighter Wing Commander. "The ASA team is well trained and prepared to fulfill this no-fail homeland defense mission, I am very proud of their hard work."
"While the AFE was actually officially not graded, I guarantee had we not performed well, we would not be sitting alert this afternoon."
A unit's first AFE is typically not a graded inspection, but during the out-brief the NORAD team chief indicated that we would have received the highest grade possible. He did warn that the challenge will now be to keep up the momentum and be prepared to pass the proceeding inspections with the same enthusiasm.
The unit officially accepted the ASA mission on February 15th and its members have been on alert ever since.
The wing is scheduled to conduct an official ribbon cutting ceremony on April 10th, where they expect Westfield's Mayor, Dan Knapik, Maj. Gen. Garry Dean, the First Air Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Patrick Moisio, the Deputy Director of the Air National Guard, Maj. Gen. Joseph Carter the Adjutant General and Maj. Gen. Michael Akey, the Commander of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.
These distinguished guest will participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new ASA facilities as well as the expanded Fire Station and Munitions complex. There were many projects completed in order to accept the alert mission, but these three are among the largest single projects. They represent nearly 5 years of planning and execution and a budget of $30 million.