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Guard Leads Space Exercise With NATO Partners

04-09-24 WR Space Exercise WEBSITE
04-09-24 WR Space Exercise WEBSITE
Washington Report

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — About 50 members of the Air National Guard and the Romanian and Polish Armed Forces focused on space as a warfighting domain during exercise Vulcan Guard Bolt 6 at NATO’s Allied Air Command in late March.

The sixth iteration of the series — which is led by the Guard — underscored mission planning with two of America's NATO partners. Poland and Romania are developing their own space capabilities amid rising global threats in the domain.

"Our military and our allies depend on assured access to space to be effective," said Air Force Lt. Col. Ian Harper, a missile warning leader with the National Guard Bureau's Space Operations, who was one of the exercise's planners.

While NATO has conducted several exercises with space operations embedded in them, the latest iteration of Vulcan Guard represents the first time the alliance has had an exclusively space-based exercise. Bolt 6 included U.S. airmen from eight units and five states.

Guardsmen led the exercise's teams and provided expertise in space domain awareness activities, joint commercial operations, cyber, satellite communications and intelligence.

Vulcan Guard started in February 2022. For this iteration, the exercise was organized into three teams comprised of Romania and Poland — both members of the Guard's State Partnership Program — and members of NATO's Combined Forces Space Component, which includes space operators from various partners in the military alliance.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard R. Neely, the commander and adjutant general of Illinois, said Vulcan Guard illustrates the Guard's essential role in America's space activities.

"The National Guard absolutely should remain in the Space Force mission," Neely said during an April 8 media roundtable about Vulcan Guard Bolt 6. "And this is not just important to those states that have the space units, but in the entire National Guard."

Army Maj. Gen. Laura L. Clellan, the adjutant general of Colorado, said the Guard's "enduring partnerships" anchor exercises like Vulcan Guard.

"You know, Vulcan Guard was only possible because of the relationships the National Guard has with our partner nations through our State Partnership Program," she said during the April 8 roundtable.

Several of the more than 30 Air Guardsmen who joined the exercise demonstrated how skill sets they acquired from their civilian careers enhance their military ones.

"Events like Vulcan Guard benefit from my space role [in my civilian career], which helps to work through problems posed by the exercise," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Keenen, an intelligence specialist with the New York Air Guard’s 222nd Command and Control Squadron.

U.S. Space Force Col. John Patrick, the director of the NATO Space Center and the chief of staff of the military alliance's CFSCC, described leveraging civilian skills as bringing that "corporate knowledge" into the fight.

"That’s what the Guard is there for — to be the subject matter experts for these [space-based] systems," Patrick said.

Harper said Air Guardsmen should leave Vulcan Guard with a proficiency in the mission planning process — a must when integrating with other service components.

"Land, air, sea and cyber domains all depend on space, so we need to make sure our young airmen understand the importance of mission planning and how it is done from a joint perspective," he explained.

Guard officials are planning the seventh iteration of the Vulcan Guard series as an exercise focused on the Indo-Pacific.

— By Air Force Master Sgt. Erich B. Smith, National Guard Bureau