An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Combat ready and showcase worthy: Belligerent Badger deployment challenges Airmen’s warrior skills

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mark Sulaica

"Was I going to take the lead or not?" were the only thoughts going through Guerrero's mind as simulated dye rounds were fired at her and her team. With a quick decision, she took charge and led her team through a firefight.

This is not an isolated incident—Belligerent Badger ‘23 is a testament to the strong Airmen assigned to Scott and their ability to lead under pressure. These Airmen once again proved their abilities, established an independently operating air base in an austere location, and set up the framework to support any aeromedical evacuation mission needs.

From April 10-19, Airmen from the 375th Air Mobility Wing held BB ‘23—a full-scale readiness rehearsal—deploying 232 members to Volk Field Air National Guard Base, Wisconsin. These teams from various job backgrounds demonstrated perseverance, dedication and warrior skills together.

The exercise kicked off at Scott and Airmen across the installation snapped into action. Clear communication ensured hundreds of personnel were able to outprocess. Pallet after pallet was loaded onto a C-17 Globemaster III including MREs, construction equipment and medical supplies, headed 436 miles north to Volk Field.

At a moment’s notice, Airmen were ready to go for BB ‘23. 

Lt. Col. Jonathan Eizenberg, 375th AMW Plans and Programs director, helped develop BB ‘23 with the intent to increase readiness, build the Wing’s strength and speed and be closer to the tip of the spear during future operations.

“We are taking this wing from a Showcase Wing into a Combat Ready Wing,” said Eizenberg.  

Eizenberg explained further how Agile Combat Employment requires a mental shift for Airmen to accomplish the mission in any environment.

“We must be a lean and agile force; it's almost a Marine mentality," said Eizenberg. “When our Airmen deploy, they're not just in the background of the room, they are upfront with the fighters. We will no longer have to send 20,000 Airmen to a single location, instead we’ll be able to send small teams. Everybody will be a jack of all trades.”

The rehearsal consisted of two phases: First, the teams established the base before practicing operating in a contested environment.

During phase one, teams from across the Wing worked together at Volk Field to immediately construct shelter, establish communications, purify water on site through reverse osmosis and set up a Single Pallet Expeditionary Kitchen (SPEK). With limited Airmen on-site during phase one, Airmen outside their regular career fields assisted in duties outside of their primary skill sets.

“If I had to describe the exercise in just a few words, it would be Multi-Capable Airmen,” said Eizenberg.  “This is the epitome in truly seeing Airmen readiness training and Multi-Capable Airmen training to exercise effectively, smartly and safely outside their normal jobs.”

Through the construction of temporary shelters, the procurement of clean water, the establishment of crisis communications, Airmen used phase one to establish a strong foundation for success.

With boots hitting the ground April 14, the rest of Team Scott’s players landed at Volk Field to begin phase two.

In preparation for future real-world operations, Airmen must have the necessary capabilities such as updated and effective training equipment. The Joint Readiness Training Center course during BB ‘23 met this need.

Approximately 50 Airmen underwent the JRTC course which included first-aid training, land navigation, warrior skills and chemical gear training. This prepared them for a capstone training event at the end of each day where they were tested on these abilities in the battlefield. Each group put this training to the test during a firefight using dye-marking, non-lethal training cartridges to simulate combat scenarios. This increased Airmen readiness in high-stress environments.

Reflecting on the training, 1st Lt. Mendel Avtzon, 375th Legal judge advocate, a participant in the JRTC exercise, emphasized the importance of pushing himself outside of his comfort zone to support his fellow Airmen and accomplish the mission together.

"My mind was just about getting to the end, but at the same time, in my mind, I wanted everyone to make it with me to the end," Avtzon stated.

During the training engagements, Airmen relied on teamwork and communication to overcome challenges put in their way during training. Airman 1st Class Sophia Guerrero, 375th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment, took charge during a firefight returning fire at an attacker.

"It was a very stressful day; I could sense a lot of anxiety and stress throughout my squad, just getting yelled at BMT style, but once the firefight was done, we felt more like a team," shared Guerrero.

The cargo container area was like an old battlefield, with barricades and shipping containers serving as makeshift cover for the players. The sound of gunfire rang in the distance from a loudspeaker to immerse the players in the simulated attack. The attackers could be seen advancing, their weapons at the ready.

"Was I going to take the lead or not?" were the only thoughts going through Guerrero's mind as simulated dye rounds were fired at her and her team. With a quick decision, she took charge and led her team through the firefight.

Airmen gathered together to provide feedback to the instructors and after each strenuous day, the Airmen of the JRTC course spent the night in tents and ate dinner each night from the SPEK, fully immersed in a deployed environment.

Another key element of BB ‘23 was the newly formed Detachment X at Scott AFB. While at BB '23 they had the opportunity to test their drone in their first major exercise, utilizing drones to survey and provide an avenue for commanders to enhance their warfighting capabilities. By utilizing technology such as drones, military personnel can accomplish their mission with greater efficiency and accuracy while reducing the risk of harm to themselves and others.

The last major component showcased the grit and determination of Team Scott Airmen as they practiced a “tail swap” despite their teamwork and communication being placed under high stress. The tail swap process is a critical component of aeromedical evacuation operations, requiring precision and attention to detail as personnel transport patients from one aircraft to another.

As with the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, the 375th Medical Group performed their duties during BB ‘23, unexpected snowfall intensified, making the tail swap process even more challenging. Despite the gusts of icy wind turning their faces red and covered in snow in their winter gear, the Airmen persisted, ensuring that the simulated patients received uninterrupted care.

“A great example of our Airmen stepping up was our AE team,” said Eizenberg. “You truly felt like you were in an emergency medical hospital transporting real humans outside of the combat zone. You could look at the Airmen and truly feel that they were caring for these patients.”

With their unwavering dedication during BB ‘23, Airmen from the 375th AMW persevered through the heat, rain, snow and through anything put in their way within the span of one week.

Whether it’s Ballistic or Belligerent Badger, one thing is clear: The 375th AMW is instilling a combat readiness foundation for the next generation of Airmen.

“Every Airman at every base must be ready…and our Airmen need to have that clear and concise guidance on when they need to be ready,” said Eizenberg. “It’s the youngest Airman that will continue to carry the Air Force forward for the next decade.”