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Operation Rapid Forge concludes

U.S. Air Force Capt. Joseph Walz, 421st Fighter Squadron F-35A Lightning II pilot, prepares to taxi during Operation Rapid Forge at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, July 18, 2019. The goal of the operation is to enhance interoperability with NATO allies and partners to improve combined operational capabilities. F-35s provide unmatched lethality, survivability, and adaptability to war-fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Joseph Walz, 421st Fighter Squadron F-35A Lightning II pilot, prepares to taxi during Operation Rapid Forge at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, July 18, 2019. The goal of the operation is to enhance interoperability with NATO allies and partners to improve combined operational capabilities. F-35s provide unmatched lethality, survivability, and adaptability to war-fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lighting II, assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, takes off during Operation Rapid Forge at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, July 23, 2019. Rapid Forge aircraft are forward deploying to train in coordination with NATO allies in the Baltics and Poland. The operation ensures the U.S. Air Force is engaged and ready with credible force to assure, deter, and defend during a potential threat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Branden Rae)

Operation Rapid Forge continues at Spangdahlem

A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle, assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, taxis toward the runway at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, July 18, 2019, during Operation Rapid Forge. Rapid Forge aircraft are forward deploying to bases in the territory of NATO allies in order to enhance readiness and improve interoperability. The goal of the operation is to enhance readiness in coordination with U.S. allies and partners in Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Preston Cherry)

U.S. Air Force logistics readiness Airmen disconnect an F-15E Strike Eagle from the fuel hose during a forward arming and refueling point mission with USAFE aircraft during Operation Rapid Forge at Ă„mari Air Base, Estonia, July 23, 2019. The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, with the capability to fight at low altitude, day or night, and in all weather. Operation Rapid Forge involves NATO territories in order to enhance readiness and improve interoperability between U.S. allies and partners in Europe. (U.S. Air Force video by Staff Sgt. Rose Gudex)

U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, coordinate setup of a command and control facility at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, July 10, 2019. The facility was one of the results of an effort to exercise new capabilities during Operation Rapid Forge. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kyle Cope)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --

Operation Rapid Forge concluded July 25, 2019 at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.

The 10-day operation helped ensure U.S. forces’ ability to fulfill the European Deterrence Initiative, a policy to assure and defend NATO allies, while promoting deterrence in an increasingly complex security environment.

Members of the 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, set up a mobile command and control facility in a simulated austere environment. The 4th FW and the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, Hill AFB, Utah, used the C2 node throughout the operation for sorties as the U.S. forces practiced interoperability with NATO partners.

“Rapid Forge is assuring our NATO partners,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Donn Yates, 4th FW commander. “Rapid Forge is developing interoperability between 4th and 5th generation aircraft, F-35A and F-15E, and it is also rapidly projecting airpower into the theater using amazing capabilities that we have, and then being able to test and experiment with command and control, in accordance with a flexible mindset.”

The operation was a collaborative effort between European and U.S. Forces.

“European forces from NATO member nations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland participated alongside Airmen from U.S. Air Forces in Europe, F-15E Strike Eagles from the 4th FW and F-35A Lightning II from the 421st EFS,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Maxwell Cover, 421st EFS F-35A pilot.

A key part of Rapid Forge was testing the U.S. Air Force’s ability to operate in an austere environment.

“The U.S. Air Force had been looking to explore its ability to deploy a light and lean force to rapidly stand up a C2 facility anywhere in the world,” Yates said. “This ability prevents U.S. forces from being restricted to a fixed site, while demonstrating we are a credible and capable competitor with any adversary.”

Operating this way has resulted in the concept of the multifunctional Airman, an Airman who is trained to perform a variety of tasks, not just those within their specific specialty.

Cover said the 421st EFS had a team of highly trained maintenance personnel at each training location for Rapid Forge. Airmen were cross-trained into all the different F-35A maintenance functional areas. Instead of having seven to nine personnel to operate all the functional areas, two personnel can do all the F-35A servicing.

The 4th FW also discovered the concept of the multifunctional Airman to be beneficial.

Yates said his base built their team towards the multifunctional Airman concept prior deploying to Rapid Forge. He said for his team, the concept involved training Airmen to fuel jets, marshal aircraft, provide security, and lead troops, among other skills.

This concept makes expeditionary operations like Rapid Forge possible.

“The multifunctional Airman concept is key to operating in an austere environment,” Cover said. “We want to minimize our footprint and change the calculus of where a potential adversary thinks we can operate. To do that, we are going to need to cut down the number of people we need to accomplish the mission and have more of a middleweight fighting force that is highly capable.”

The continued change in strategy and policy during Rapid Forge was intended to strengthen the deterrence effect of U.S. forces.

Cover said it is important the U.S. Air Force maintains a strategy that seeks a continuing advantage to deter aggression and assure our NATO allies. Operation Rapid Forge was built upon a strategy that allows us to promote deterrence of possible aggressors by operating in remote locations with a minimal footprint, while still maintaining the strength of our fighting force.

The lessons and skills learned from Rapid Forge resulted in a successful operation.

“We came here to accomplish three objectives,” Yates said. “Get the team here in a very quick timeline, establish our air expeditionary wing and achieve training, and get everyone home safe. We have accomplished the first two objectives and are working on the third, so I consider Rapid Forge to be a huge success.”