by Staff Sgt. Carole Inman and 1st Lt. Eric Cobbe
USAFAWC Public Affairs
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) -- Hurlburt Field's population is becoming lot more crowded as more than 700 people converge on the base to "practice war" in Blue Flag 95-4, Sept. 13-20. This influx will add to the already busy environment of Hurlburt Field.
The Blue Flag exercise is conducted quarterly by the Air Force Battlestaff Training School, a subordinate unit of the Air Force Air Warfare Center. The exercise trains combat leaders and supporting battle staff in command and control procedures for specific theaters of operation, attempting to replicate theater conditions and procedures a realistically as possible.
Those participating in Blue Flag 95-4 come from various Air Force bases. Army posts, Navy and Marine Corps bases, and Coast Guard facilities. More than 15 general and flag officers will also attend, including a first-time mentor in retired Gen. Charles A. Horner, who was the U.S. and Allied Air Operations commander for Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
The playing field for Blue Flag 95-4 is set in the Caribbean with a scenario that might realistically evolve in that region. A team of combat leaders and supporting battle staff are assembled to guide the "war" through a combined air, ground and naval assault by joint forces.
The primary customer for Blue Flag 95-4 is 8th Air Force, commanded by Lt. Gen. Stephen B. Croker. Croker and his battlestaff team are setting up an Air Operations Center at Hurlburt Field that is an exact duplicate of the Air Operations Center they might expect in real conflict. Through the use of the Distributed Wargaming System, 1st Air Force will be playing, for the first time, in the exercise from Tyndall AFB, Fla.
"This is one of the most challenging scenarios ever attempted at Blue Flag," said Col. Robert A. Rohlfing, Battlestaff Training School commandant. "General Croker and his staff have prepared extensively for this major exercise and are anxious to show the assembled opposing forces that they know their business. There is no doubt in my mind that the are ready and will succeed."
Preparations have begun as contingents from bases throughout the United States bring computers and communications equipment into the Blue Flag facility and surrounding area. Major participants include 8th Air Force, 1st Air Force, Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, Air Mobility Command, Central Intelligence Agency, Space Command, State Department, Air Force Information Warfare Center, USACOM, AFRCC, and joint warfighting components from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The exercise itself is played out through an intricate computer network.
As with each Blue Flag, players begin with three days of academic and seminar training, followed by a four-day exercise using realistic friendly and enemy orders of battle, contingency plans, and theater procedures. The players are given maximum flexibility to manage the employment of friendly forces, allowing them to influence the battle outcome.
More than 35,000 members from all branches of the military have benefited from this training since the first Blue Flag exercise was conducted in 1976. During that time, Blue Flag has evolved from scenarios that involved live flying operations into the computerized wargame simulation it is today using software that allows both offensive and defensive activities to be executed simultaneously.
"We give commanders and battle staff the opportunity to engage in a realistic combat scenario before they may have to make command decisions in actual war," said Rohlfing. "This training has proved to be invaluable as demonstrated during the Gulf War. Many of our leaders there, including General Horner, were Blue Flag alumni. And we intend to ensure that today's leaders are just as well prepared." (Inman and Cobbe are assigned to USAFAWC public affairs)