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Operation Loneshark: lethal readiness, modernization Oct. 20, 2022

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas– Technology and the digital age's immediacy have entirely changed how the world operates. 

Information is available almost anytime and anywhere. 

But with the growing ways to access information comes a growing vulnerability gap.

From aircraft and maritime vessels to cell phones, smart watches, and even electric toothbrushes, these things all release some type of frequency or signal.  Department of Defense intelligence analysts have the capability to find, fix, track, target and or access these unseen energy surges.    

Trained at Goodfellow, intel analysts use their unique skills to read the signals released from enemy technology, such as surface-to-air missile systems. With phenomenal accuracy, analysts can identify what type of adversary weapon is deployed, its location, the threat level presented, and if the threat needs to be neutralized.

These highly skilled intelligence members capture various snippets of data and piece it together like a puzzle for senior leaders and partnered allies to make strategic decisions and advance America’s vital interests. 

“A lot of the stuff we do– across all of the intelligence career fields– impacts worldwide decisions for other countries’ leaders,” said Master Sgt. Andrew Mundy, 316th Training Squadron flight chief. “Second and third-party allies rely on us for the intel we gather to help them make strategic decisions.”

The 17th Training Wing’s specialized education has taught more than 360,000 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance warriors how to satisfy intelligence needs for levels higher than the DoD. 

The power of this discipline springs from the people, specifically instructors. 

“Instructor’s presence is the first representation of what the intelligence career field looks like for Airmen new to the Air Force,” Staff Sgt. Caleb Elsea, 316th TRS instructor. “We set expectations for Air Force standards like discipline, customs and courtesies, and how we treat one another.”  

Upholding strong Air Force values sets the tone in daily tasks and drives the need for continuous improvements to achieve excellence. 

Similarly, the 316th TRS' additional value, ‘always looking forward,’ builds on the excellence expectation. 

Teaching intelligence fundamentals and critical thinking through scenario-based exercises develops lethal skills applicable to the entire military domain.

“We try to instill that the small things matter,” said Mundy. “If you can’t do little things now, how can we expect you to do the big things later?”

National security depends on realism in the training environment and the student’s seamless transition to the operational force. 

Master Sgt. Anthony Madrid, 316th TRS electronic intelligence signals instructor, is a force-multiplier who quarterbacks the strategy to execute his course’s final capstone, which is the last step to operationalize the students for the military domain. 

The end of course exercise is called Operation Loneshark. It’s designed to simulate a joint air operations center environment and have the students execute different missions sets while they respond to real-world situations and support the Joint Force Air Component Commander’s top priority, establish and maintain air superiority, which is the extent to which one force in a conflict controls the air domain over another.

This joint learning environment challenges students from different services to operate as a united force like they would in a real-world situation. Madrid ensures Operation Loneshark is stacked with relevant information, uses modern technology, and operates with a strong, connected enlisted force of instructors.    

Instructors bring diverse and globalized experiences that drive the development of the next generation of DoD intelligence warriors, today, explained Madrid. 

“Operation Loneshark’s regular content upgrades, or modernization, could not be successful without the collaboration of noncommissioned officers,” said Madrid. “These NCOs unanimously bring diverse, informed, and relevant enrichments for continuously improving academia.” 

“In previous capstones, students had to tracked ISR assets by take-off times alone,” said Madrid. “Now we provide them with real world products like an ISR sync matrix. We are bringing ops floor resources and tactics into the training.”

Madrid has modernized student training by capitalizing on current world events, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s response to the Speaker of the House’s Taiwan visit, and inputs the latest reports from the intelligence community. 

“We are already getting real-world data into the classroom,” Madrid explained. “This way, our students are more prepared on the ops floor.” 

The recent add-on, ‘Operation Twitter,’ infuses actual social media feeds like Tweets into the classroom scenarios. 

“Injecting social media feed into the training scenarios provides a more realistic feel to the exercise,” said Madrid. “And furthers students’ operational readiness.”

“We are not rewriting courses,” Mundy added. “We are completely rebuilding them.”

Using relevant and updated information enhances Airmen readiness and lethality.

“The kind of enemy we are facing now and in the future are more adapted to compete with us,” said Elsea. “We must be one step ahead of them by ensuring our Airmen replacing us can accomplish that mission.”