SFK, UNITED KINGDOM
RAF MILDENHALL, England -- All aspects of 352nd Special Operations Group operations were under the microscope here April 30 to May 18 during the new combined unit inspection by the Air Force Special Operations Command Inspector General.
Pulling in an overall grade of "Excellent" for the group, in addition to "Outstanding" marks from the 7th Special Operations Squadron, 67th Special Operations Squadron and 352nd SOG Command and Control elements, was no easy feat.
The CUI is an Air Force redesign of an assortment of inspections Airmen have undergone in the past, such as operational readiness inspections, unit compliance inspections and logistics compliance assessment program surveys. Overall grades range from unsatisfactory, marginal, satisfactory, excellent to outstanding.
In conjunction with the CUI, the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency graded the 25th Intelligence Squadron, Detachment 2, stationed here.
The inspection team evaluated the 352nd SOG's ability to conduct their operations at a moment's notice.
"Every aspect was thoroughly tested," said Lt. Col. Abe Friedman, then 352nd SOG director of staff. "From the moment we heard the word 'go,' to the completion of airdrops on the drop zone or landings to austere places, communications, logistics, personnel, manpower and legal -- 100 percent of the group's assets were inspected."
In the months prior to the evaluation, the 352nd SOG performed seven training exercises. Five were rehearsals to practice positioning the force, which Friedman explained is the initial response to a crisis. The remaining two enabled personnel to demonstrate the ability to survive and operate (ATSO), as well as employ and sustain the force.
"Positioning the force is how we transition from our normal peace time operations to our war-time state," said Lt. Col. Robert Leeds, current 352nd SOG director of staff. "We practiced that five times with the 100th Air Refueling Wing, using the (100th) Logistics Readiness Squadron, [100th ARW] installation deployment officer and the 727th Air Mobility Squadron."
The time-tested processes run by the 100th LRS and 727th AMS were used to get the 352 SOG's personnel and equipment to the forward deployed location. These units were crucial as one of the operational readiness exercises, as well as the CUI, were held at nearby RAF Fairford, said Leeds. A more realistic scenario was created by having units and equipment relocate.
Along with 352nd SOG personnel, approximately 40 Airmen from other units supported the CUI at RAF Mildenhall and deployed to RAF Fairford. Supporting units from the 100th ARW included the 351st Air Refueling Squadron, 100th Operations Support Squadron, 100th Maintenance Squadron, 100th Maintenance Group, 100th Security Forces Squadron and 100th LRS.
"We use our own internal aircraft maintenance, communication, medical support and logistics," said Leeds. "However, a lot of our functions require personnel that are allocated to us from the Air Force to function specifically for us when we go in a deployed capacity."
The CUI inspectors used a variety of methods to include tabletop exercises and part-task evaluations to judge the group's performance; however the majority of the inspection consisted of an emergency deployment response exercise.
"The inspectors created a fictional war scenario, and they had a whole intelligence script built into it," said Leeds. "We responded to that, and we launched out of town to RAF Fairford. Once we got there, the scenario continued and we conducted ATSO there, like we're deployed."
Master Sgt. Michale Marriott, 352nd SOG Plans and Programs, said the group also took part in medical, chemical warfare and active shooter scenarios; conducted air drops; demonstrated survival, evasion, resistance and escape procedures; and flew numerous MC-130H/P aircraft sorties.
Airmen from RAF Lakenheath's 48th Fighter Wing and the 435th Contingency Response Group at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, also deployed to RAF Fairford with the 352nd SOG. British local, government and military authorities also contributed to the evaluation.
"They provided functions such as air traffic control, assisting with aerial delivery and they provided the real-world security for the aircraft so our security forces could participate in the exercise," Leeds said. "All of the supporting units were instrumental to our success."
Editor's note: Senior Airman Rachel Waller, 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this story.
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