Tyndall welcomes "Virtual Flag" training facility

Larry Christie a leader of the Tyndall distributed mission team shows airmen how the virtual technology works to provide leaders information make critical decisions,

Larry Christie a leader of the Tyndall distributed mission team shows airmen how the virtual technology works to help to provide information to make critical decisions. Photo by TSgt Scott Farley

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- First Air Force opened a new multi-purpose training facility and added virtual technology to its monthly training last week to explore new frontiers in the cyber world, raise training standards and save millions in live-fly costs. 

First Air Force, Air Forces Northern combined 'Virtual Flag', using live, virtual and constructive platforms with its monthly 'Amalgam Arrow,' training engaging more than 250 joint personnel nationally last week at the new Air and Space Operations mission training center. 

The newly built training center at Tyndall Air Force base is the hub of the virtual exercise. This facility brings together key leaders, technical specialists, and joint forces through training using visual and audio communication information, computers, and video-conferencing. He makes life-saving decisions based on information provided by real-life scenarios in defense of the United States. 

Video conferencing and a common computer operating picture allows Tyndall to virtually connect more than 250 personnel from 22 locations across the nation, including Coast Guard, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Army assets. F-16s, F-15s, pilots on simulators, Air Missile Defense systems, and other land, sea, air, and space assets, pilots, technical experts, leaders and warfighters. 

During Virtual Flag 8-04, these warriors fought on a united cyber-front for four days to engage in anti-terrorism training to keep America safe. The new training center can also function as an alternate Air and Space Operations Center at Tyndall when needed. 

Behind the scenes of this virtual opportunity is the distributed mission team who made this new virtual training a reality for Tyndall. Four years ago, First Air Force had a vision of assuring the Air Force and the Air and Space Operations Center here had the cutting-edge training opportunities that would allow them to maximize their effectiveness on United States soil. 

The commander of First Air Force, Maj. Gen. Hank Morrow, supported this vision and successfully brought people and resources together to overcome challenges. 

The program manager, Steve Boe, introduced virtual technology into the Air and Space Operations Center here to simultaneously complement monthly live exercises and explore scenarios that may happen, but could not be trained using live assets or were too costly. 

"Virtual training pushes the envelope into cyber space and unlimited virtual possibilities," said Mr. Boe. 

Challenges were great for Mr. Boe. He needed funding, equipment, a place that would support this training, the ability to integrate joint and civilian agencies into the exercises and interagency support. With minimal resources in 2004, Mr. Boe set out to recruit support and resources nationally and insure American warfighters had what they needed to protect and defend the country. 

General Morrow's commitment and Mr. Boe's actions culminated in a new capability this week for Tyndall. 

"It provides the transition from the development to implementation phase for the 11 member team," said Mr. Boe. 

The distributed mission member team is expected to grow to 14 members this year. In September 2008, Tyndall's distributed mission team will compete for the Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award. 

"All virtual technology acquired provides the right tools for warfighters to assure challenging, realistic, and thought provoking training," said Mr. Larry Christie, who is a key leader providing technological and operational expertise for the team. 

'Virtual Flag 8-04' is the culmination of a four- year plan marking a new phase of virtual warfighter training at First Air Force, said Mr. Christie. "It will be added to monthly trainings and other exercises to prepare the 601st Air and Space Operations Center homeland defense warriors to challenge their comfort zone, and welcome new futuristic distributed missions with cyber and live threats."