AFIMSC fast tracks range initiative to boost ATF readiness

  • Published
  • By Shannon Carabajal
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – An Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center initiative to develop a network of training ranges is aimed at boosting the readiness of combat support and combat service support Airmen.

Called Combat Support Training Ranges, or CSTR, the AFIMSC team is designing the sites so Airmen assigned to Air Task Forces can improve their expeditionary skills as they team, train and deploy together during their Air Force Force Generation cycle.

AFIMSC recently led a Combat Support Training Range Training Objectives Workshop at Fort Bliss, Texas, to identify capability requirements for ATF expeditionary air base squadrons, or EABS, training at CSTR sites. The group also made plans to secure range time for ATF units and provide the equipment and infrastructure needed to support training at the sites.

AFIMSC began developing CSTR sites in 2023 and is aggressively working to establish up to 12 fully capable sites over the next few years, said Lt. Col. Ross Dotzlaf, AFIMSC force generation integration and readiness chief.

“As these sites come online, they will be able to satisfy the need for units to train on the tactics, techniques and procedures needed for the high-end fight,” he said. “To accomplish this goal, the sites will offer austere training environments and come equipped with low-density, high-demand training assets.”

Resources available at CSTR sites, aligned with training requirements, will help combat support Airmen kick-start their unit planning and ignite a spark in their expeditionary and readiness training mindset for the Great Power Competition, said Maj. Joseph Deskin, AFIMSC expeditionary readiness training branch chief.

“Our Airmen need to be prepared for both the most dangerous and the most likely deployment scenarios,” Deskin said. “CSTR sites are designed to prepare Airmen by providing a platform to conduct organic, unit-led training on realistic infrastructure, equipment and threats based on the pacing challenge.”

To support ATF training through CSTR capabilities, the working group identified key training objectives that closely align with the ATF training plan. Next, they assessed the progress of those objectives at CSTR locations at Fort Bliss, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.

“By anticipating the training requirements of ATF units, CSTR locations are postured to host training events as geographically displaced teams unify, improving their ability to deliver base operating support and generate combat power,” Deskin said.

AFIMSC assembled a team of functional experts from around the service to develop the objectives, including the center’s primary subordinate units and future EABS leaders. Gathering people from different parts of the Air Force helped the working group identify essential equipment and infrastructure requirements for Airmen training in high-stakes, agile combat scenarios, Deskin said.

The Air Force is establishing six pilot ATFs to assess how to provide deployable, integrated units more effectively. Each ATF will include an EABS for base operating support and mission generation force elements with attached mission sustainment teams to facilitate agile combat employment. The first ATFs enter the AFFORGEN cycle in April with deployments beginning in fiscal year 2026.

Unit collaboration and training in a simulated deployed environment is crucial to the success of the new ATF construct, said Chief Master Sgt. Carlos Ochoa, 87th Civil Engineer Group senior enlisted leader at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

“There’s no way to replicate the relationships you forge when you and your team work together, train together, eat together, sweat together, get frustrated together, (and) embrace the suck together,” he said.

Ochoa will soon join the EABS based at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, serving as the squadron senior enlisted leader.

“With EABS being such a lean team, it’s crucial our Airmen can accomplish tasks beyond their primary Air Force Specialty Codes,” Ochoa said. Knowing our team members’ strengths and weaknesses through training together will enable us to identify and leverage their hidden talents and be the most efficient unit we can possibly be on day one of the deployment.”

The objectives developed by the working group will contribute to the success of the squadrons as they begin their deployment cycles, said Chief Master Sgt. Jerome Clark, 49th Wing A-Staff chief at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

“These objectives and scenarios will serve as an excellent starting point for units to actively practice interoperability and resolve any obstacles before deployment,” he said. “It is crucial to start these scenarios promptly, ensuring we achieve the required sets and repetitions, and derive valuable lessons that can be shared among all ATFs.”

Clark is set to join the EABS at Davis-Monthan and serve as the squadron’s senior enlisted leader. In addition to bringing insight to the working group as a future EABS leader, he drew on his background in logistics to offer guidance about logistics readiness requirements, ensuring seamless integration into the new framework.

As Clark and Ochoa prepare to transition to their new roles, both agree the accomplishments of the working group will provide a strong foundation and path forward for combat support Airmen.

“We’re shaping the way the Air Force will be presenting forces to a contested theater in the future,” Ochoa said. “The team didn’t take that lightly and really put some serious effort into developing objectives my fellow EABS leadership teams and I can use to guide us as we prepare our units.

“It was heartwarming to see all the support coming from across the Total Force enterprise. We’re in this together. I’m excited to play a role in how this evolves.”