Airmen of the 1st Special Operations Communications Squadron embarked on a no-notice tactical communications exercise, arriving on Okaloosa Island, Fla., last week. Communicators set up an improvised ground-to-air communications site, relaying with AC-130U gunships, and downloading information streams from remotely piloted aircraft overhead, during the Aug. 8-12 exercise. “Too often it’s easy to run back to a building for something you forgot to ship on the pallet. … This adds some realism to the training,” said Lt. Col. James Sahm, 1st SOCS commander. The squadron spent a week operating from tents, using transportable antennas and relay equipment. Beset with thunderstorms, high-winds, and power outages, “Sand Dollar,” a quarterly readiness exercise in the Gulf of Mexico gave special operators a realistic sample of the austere conditions often faced during an emergency forward deployment. (Hurlburt report by SrA. Joe McFadden)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.