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Shaw develops multifunctional Airmen, supports exercise Agile Lion

A photo of an F-16 at night with maintainers working on it.

Maintainers assigned to the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work on an F-16 Viper during exercise Agile Lion at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Jan. 16, 2020. The 20th Fighter Wing supported other units by providing close air support and suppression of enemy air defenses for the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Destinee Sweeney)

A photo of maintainers posing with their unit signature hand gesture.

The 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 77th Aircraft Maintenance Unit’s combat maintenance (CMX) team poses for a photo at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Jan. 15, 2020. The CMX team is comprised of various air force specialty codes and aims to be able to operate in austere locations out of a C-130 Hercules. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Destinee Sweeney)

A photo of an F-16 Viper flying.

An F-16 Viper takes off from Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, during exercise Agile Lion, Jan. 16, 2020. The 77th Fighter Squadron provided close air support and suppression of enemy air defenses for the exercise at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Destinee Sweeney)

A photo of maintainers loading a munition onto an F-16 Viper.

Maintainers assigned to the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron perform an integrated combat turn on an F-16 Viper during exercise Agile Lion at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Jan. 14, 2020. Integrated combat turns allow aircraft to be re-armed and refueled at the same time without turning off the engine, allowing the pilot to get back to the mission quickly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Destinee Sweeney)

Maintainers wait with a bomb-loading vehicle for the rest of the crew to prepare an F-16 Viper for the munition.

Maintainers assigned to the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prepare to load a munition onto an F-16 Viper during exercise Agile Lion at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, Jan. 14, 2020. During the exercise, the 77th Aircraft Maintenance Unit’s combat maintenance team performed integrated combat turns at night for the first time on the base. Integrated combat turns allow aircraft to be re-armed and refueled at the same time without turning off the engine, allowing the pilot to get back to the mission quickly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Destinee Sweeney)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --

When a special operations unit infiltrates and secures an area, there is little room for mistakes. Each individual on the team must be highly motivated, expertly skilled and act as a multifunctional asset to ensure mission success.

However qualified, these teams do not act alone. While these elite organizations may dominate the ground, their wingmen circling the skies above are masters of air superiority.

Together with various Air Force units such as the 4th and 20th Fighter Wings and the 41st Airlift Squadron, special operations conducted training to seize the airfield at Seymour Johnson, North Carolina, Jan. 13-17, during exercise Agile Lion.

At Shaw, pilots and maintainers from the 20th Fighter Wing provided a number of support roles during the exercise and expanded their own professional warfighter repertoires while the base itself acted as an operating location for both fighter and cargo aircraft.

“This exercise taught 20th FW fighter pilots how best to integrate with dissimilar assets and provide suppression of enemy air defenses coverage for a joint-force that might be disjointed at times with missions spanning an approximate eight-hour window,” said Capt. Henry Martin, 77th Fighter Squadron F-16 Viper pilot.

The 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 77th Aircraft Maintenance Unit’s Combat Maintenance Team also made strides toward improving the ability to maintain F-16 Vipers in more austere locations by providing hand-selected maintainers to expand the wing’s ability to catch, re-arm, refuel and release the Vipers to allow for maximum mission potential.

“The combat maintenance team is training to be able to load up in a C-130 Hercules and operate in almost any remote airfield in the world to generate aircraft quickly and send them back to the warfront,” said Tech. Sgt. Stephen Mullins, 77th AMU CMX team lead.

Comprised of multiple air force specialty codes, CMX team members are learning how to operate outside of their career field to assure the 20th FW becomes increasingly agile downrange.

“We’re able to help each other with fixes we wouldn’t normally do,” said Mullins. “An avionics specialist will be able to crew an aircraft, a weapons member will be able to fix an electrical and environmental problem and so on and so forth. Having these multiple members cross-trained limits the number of individuals we need to bring to a location so we can keep our footprint small.”

“1st Lt. Will Smith, 77th AMU sortie generation officer in charge, and his team did a great job during the exercise being flexible and safe in a non-standard setting that made me very confident in their ability to adaptively base and support any mission from any place,” said Martin.

Throughout the exercise, units were able to smooth joint operations and develop relationships with each other.

“The exercise helped build relationships and contacts with the 4th FW while sharing some of our SEAD tactics and planning considerations,” said Martin. “We built their confidence in our role as professional SEAD experts which would help if we deployed alongside them having already hashed out a lot of the dissimilar aircraft planning considerations during the exercise.”