Combat Raider 19-2 offers ‘firsts’ for Ellsworth

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Thomas Karol
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. – Ellsworth Air Force Base hosted Combat Raider 19-2 from May 14-16. This exercise showcased the value of the Powder River Training Complex to aircrew members as they train to become more efficient, lethal and ready to combat threats to the United States.

Combat Raider 19-2 has been an exercise with several “firsts” for Ellsworth AFB. It was host to the F-35 Lightning II’s inaugural flight in the PRTC. This was also the first time the C-17 Globemaster III has participated in an iteration of Combat Raider.

In addition to the four F-35s from Hill AFB, Utah, and a C-17 from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, the exercise also involved a ground control unit assigned to the Iowa Air National Guard.

All three U.S. Air Force Global Strike bombers were present as well – two B-1B Lancers from Ellsworth AFB; one B-1 from Dyess AFB, Texas; two B-2 Spirits from Whiteman AFB, Missouri; and two B-52 Stratofortresses from Minot AFB, North Dakota. There were also two KC-135 Stratotankers from Fairchild AFB, Washington; a joint surveillance target attack radar system from Robins AFB, Georgia; an airborne early warning and control system from Tinker AFB, Oklahoma; and two F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Ohio ANG.

“It is actually quite a Herculean effort by the [28th Operations Support Squadron], and other units from around the wing,” said Lt. Col. Johnathan Slinkard, the 28th OSS commander. “The planning process starts months in advance. It requires the full attention of dozens of Airmen from across the wing.”

Exercises like Combat Raider provide service members training that can be used in real-world scenarios and reinforce lessons they have learned.

“This training helps my team and myself learn to work with others so we can do our jobs better,” said Tech. Sgt. Ian Peterson, a 92nd Air Refueling Squadron flying crew chief. “If we train like we fight, we will be able to perform better downrange.”

The PRTC has one of the biggest airspaces in the continental U.S. This vast area provides Combat Raider participants with ample room to conduct large-force exercises. Accordingly, those planning and executing Combat Raider are always trying to increase the number of participants from across the U.S. Air Force.

“I think the best way to expand participation is through word of mouth,” Slinkard said. “Once players come here and understand the true value of the training they’re going to get, they’re going to go back to their home stations, and cross-talking will happen within their communities.”

With a changing Air Force comes dynamic training needs and requirements. The variety of aircraft and military members involved in each iteration of Combat Raider makes the exercise a diverse training exercise for all involved.

“Our tactics are constantly evolving,” Slinkard said. “We don’t ever want to rest on our laurels.”