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The Evolution of Installation Distributed C2

October 22, 2020

This report originally published at centcom.mil.

Airmen from the 379th Expeditionary Communications Squadron at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, are reimagining how communication squadrons conduct operations.  As U.S. Air Force Central’s largest communication squadron, the 379th ECS, known as the “Magic Makers,” have expanded capabilities for warfighting execution. The unit has transformed and converted strategy into action, enabling the installation commander to rapidly fight and recover the base in contingency operations. 

Per Joint Publication (JP) 3-0, Joint Operations, Command and Control (C2) is commander-centric and network-enabled.  Executed effectively, C2 facilitates initiative and shortens the decision making timeline, while also preserving command authority and direction to accomplish the mission.  Stated more wholly, resilient C2 requires centralized command, distributed control, and decentralized execution.  For the Magic Makers, this includes propelling C2 into a new operating environment.  Recently, the 379th ECS reshaped the Communication Fly-Away Kit (CFK) program by creating and implementing an agile construct and expandable system.  Unit members volunteered to become multi-capable Airmen.  The distributed C2 teams trained for several weeks to execute with basic and expanded CFK packages, in various environments, and in dynamic situations.  The distributed C2 teams are an extension of the installation commander’s ability to conduct C2, and are operational control to the wing’s crisis action team. 

These latest trials showcase the ability to develop and deploy capabilities needed in challenging warfighting scenarios.  To date, the distributed C2 teams have contributed to various integrated exercises, collaborated with units across the area of responsibility, and achieved several Air Force firsts. In September, the distributed C2 team successfully demonstrated the deployment of robust communications packages during a 379th Air Expeditionary Wing exercise.  The teams achieved a mission-readiness proof of concept, testing CFKs for three separate contingency functions, proving successful execution of the air tasking order and establishing new benchmarks for the 379th AEW.  

While the 379th ECS fosters a culture grounded in innovation and smart risk-taking, they understand the importance of sharing their success with others. Recently, the Magic Makers engaged in a partnership exercise with Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates performing the AFCENT’s first joint communication exercise using their new CFKs.  During the exercise, SSgt Kazuhito Ikematsu, Agile Communications non-commissioned officer in charge, provided insight on CFK utilization, distributed C2 team design, and additional capabilities via CFK phone connection to Brig. Gen. Larry Broadwell, 380th AEW commander.  The 379th ECS successfully exhibited the distributed C2 capabilities and provided the 380th AEW a way forward for its contingency communications platform. This exercise capped-off an overwhelming success for the 379th ECS, resulting in 100 percent operational performance and setting a new standard for the AOR.  The 379th ECS showcased distributed C2 capabilities, along with the flexibility provided to deploy anytime, anywhere, and in nearly any situation underscoring the squadron’s motto, “Magic Makers make magic happen!” 

Moving forward, the sky is the limit for where the 379th ECS goes from here.  The concept of enabling distributed C2 at the installation level for rapid contingency operations is an evolutionary step needed to cover the gaps in a ‘Fight and Recover the Base’ situation.  Leaders with the ability to align with the vision, and expand beyond normal boundaries is required.  Experiments like this are crucial to the future of warfare, and 1st Lt. David Clapp and Master Sgt. Jonathan Arnold are examples of leaders who have pushed the traditional limits to embody the vision of distributed C2. “The diversity of our Airmen is the key to creating the next generation of communications capabilities,” said Arnold.  “Technology, ideas, and the whole Airmen concept are cohesively changing, and we are embracing these changes at the 379th ECS.”  The next step is the alignment of the necessary data to execute Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) with contingency operations at the installation level, with the goal of connecting sensors and links necessary to execute operations.  With multi-capable Airmen leading the way, and aligning execution with innovative futuristic capabilities, the 379th AEW will continue to be at the leading edge, developing capabilities and stretching the bounds to achieve new heights for Al Udeid Air Base and the Air Force.

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