42nd Operations Support Squadron conducts first austere landing zone exercise

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Lindsay Cryer
  • Air University Public Affairs

The 42nd Operations Support Squadron recently conducted a “proof of concept” Assault Zone exercise, a first of a kind for the Air Education and Training Command.

The Landing Zone Safety Officer course takes place at Scott Air Force Base, which trains and develops Airman to ensure the safety of all aircraft, personnel, and equipment in the vicinity of a landing zone. They learn how to assess, set up, and conduct operations out of landing zones located on established airfields or austere environments.

“My leadership and I felt it was important to get them the live experience of an exercise of this magnitude while their skillsets were still fresh from the LZSO course at Scott AFB,” said Master Sgt. Bryan Dahlstrom, senior enlisted leader for the 42nd OSS and exercise organizer. “They come out of the schoolhouse fully qualified; however, this exercise was an excellent opportunity to showcase capability and provide them with the chance to collaborate efforts with other key players from across the Air Force enterprise.”

Organizing the exercise was not a small feat; Master Sgt. Dahlstrom pulled together five entities to make the vision a reality. In addition to the 42nd OSS, the 19th Air Force, 305th OSS, 62nd Airlift Squadron, and the 352nd Special Warfare Training Squadron were instrumental in getting the concept off the ground.

This exercise was open to air traffic controllers, airfield managers, radar weather, and landing system technicians who completed the course. During the course of the exercise, three Airmen surveyed the landing zone, marked it appropriately and communicated with the aircraft.

As the evening approached, they packed up the vehicle and drove to a small cement pad off the main landing strip. As the sun began to set, Staff Sgt. Griffin and Senior Airman Ramirez drove their vehicle up and down the darkened flightline, tying 1-gallon water jugs with glowsticks to mark the flight line for the incoming plane. They checked their equipment, and the ATC tower was to stand down operations so they could control the airspace.

The C130-J from Little Rock Air Force Base made initial contact and requested to land on the standard runway to drive down the ‘austere’ one to evaluate. Once landed and checked, they received the green light to begin the austere LZSO exercise.

With that, the C130-J took off into the overcast night and looped back around to land on the water jug and glowstick-marked landing strip.

Excitement was high as the Airmen coordinated amongst themselves and the aircraft. The team gave the approaching aircraft clearance to land and the lights on the plane peaked through the cloudcover, coming to land on the makeshift-lighted flightline.

The C130-J took off again and they repeated the process several times, ensuring each Airmen was given a chance and feedback throughout the process. At just past 10 p.m., the plane was cleared for it’s final takeoff of the night and headedback to Little Rock Air Force Base.

“The availability of our assault landing zone puts Maxwell AFB in a great position to support this AETC initiative,” said Lt. Col. Brian Steinke, 42nd OSS commander. “For the command as a whole, this proof-of-concept successfully demonstrated that Maxwell AFB could host future events which will provide currency training for individuals in AETC with this certification. This will allow AETC to lean even harder into the Multi-Capable Airman concept, further advancing Agile Combat Employment initiatives.”

As the Air Force moves towards multi-capable Airmen and new requirements, exercises like this are instrumental in moving the fight forward.

“The exercise was an overwhelming success,” said Dahlstrom. “All three LZSO participants gained valuable experience and proficiency. 19th AF is currently in talks with the other units involved and is trying to implement Maxwell as a future site for LZSO exercises, in which Airmen from other MAJCOMS will be able to take part in and gain further experiences and proficiency in LZSO operations.”