132d Combat Training Squadron leads the way in distributed operational training

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Michael J. Kelly
  • 132d Wing Public Affairs

In the heart of Des Moines, Iowa, lies a critical asset for the Air National Guard: the Distributed Training Operation Center. Housed in the 132d Combat Training Squadron, the DTOC plays a key role in how the Department of Defense ensures readiness and efficiency in the face of global challenges. With its advanced technology and strategic location, it plays a pivotal role in preparing DoD personnel to effectively respond to a diverse range of challenges, ensuring readiness and operational excellence always.

Located strategically in the Midwest, the DTOC serves as a vital hub for the Air National Guard’s training and operational activities. Its significance lies in its ability to simulate real-world scenarios, providing a platform for personnel to hone their skills and enhance their readiness to execute the mission fully.

“Units come here for training because it's specific to their theater logistics overview and desired learning objectives,” said Capt. Nick Fulton, 132d CTS assistant director of operations. “We are here to provide a customized training scenario for the customer whether that be aircrew or command and control.”

One of the DTOC's main features is its advanced simulation capabilities, which enable personnel to train in simulated environments that closely resemble actual operational scenarios. From air defense exercises to disaster response simulations, the DTOC offers a wide range of training programs tailored to meet the evolving needs of combatant commanders.

“The idea is to immerse our clients so much in the virtual constructive training environment that they really feel they are there,” said Chip Jacoby, a rotary wing subject matter expert and retired United States Marine Corps aviator. “We’ve had participants who have told us the environments we’ve created gave them flashbacks to actual combat experiences.”

To achieve blended virtual and constructed training, the DTOC integrates state-of-the-art simulation equipment, including simulators for various aircraft and vehicles, trainees can simulate complex missions and scenarios, preparing them for the challenges they may encounter in the field. Through the various secure networks to which DTOC connects, small-to-large scale scenarios, with one-or-many connected virtual participants, are able to execute a wide variety of scenarios for integrated training to replicate an National Defense Strategy-named threat, or lesser-capable threats, through a robust white force to present manned-constructive forces in the scenario on displays, visually in the environment where that makes sense for connected simulators, and with relevant and tactically sound communication.

“We train to catastrophic success, meaning we give participants a very realistic environment to train to the fullest extent without anyone actually getting hurt in the process. We don’t spoon-feed them the right answers,” said Jacoby. “We have a “god's-eye-view” of the battle, of what assets are in play, what weaponry is involved and often we can see what mistakes are unfolding before they are even made. We see them fail but watch them come back and not make that mistake again because it's seared into their brains.”

This collaborative approach not only fosters unity and cohesion among different units and services but also enhances interoperability, enabling seamless coordination during actual missions and deployments.

We are operating in some narrow land areas with joint and coalition partners,” said Jacoby. “There’s no room for a B-1 bomber to only fly in an Air Force lane. For Marine controllers on islands, they must be able to communicate with aircraft that provide specific capabilities to complete the mission. The DTOC is that perfect environment to hone those command and control skills.”

The DTOC provides small-scale tactical training opportunities to enable military operators to train together from distributed sites within a blended Live, Virtual and Constructive environment. Lt. Col. Paul Borke, 132d CTS director of operations, said the increased age of combat aircraft and security requirements of modern weapon systems lead to lower live-flying training. This drives an increased reliance on simulator training, which addresses pacing and threats to U.S. interests in 2027 and beyond.

“New technologies and tactics can be perfected in a secured simulated environment, and not prone to collection or exploitation by adversaries,” said Borke.

Brig. Gen. Troy Havener, deputy adjutant general, Air, South Dakota Air National Guard, said the 114th Fighter Wing, SDANG, looks to increase its training capacity through the 132d CTS, using the DTOC’s expertise to learn integrated tactical employment concepts for specific integrated tactics, such as fighter integration tactics with various fifth generation participants executing air-to-air tactics with F-16 fighter aircraft.

“The ability for part-time pilots to arrive for a robust mission that is already planned and develop proficiency through execution and debrief is priceless,” said Havener. “The DTOC’s “on-the-shelf” missions can be presented in a way that maximizes training value during the part-time pilot’s training availability.”

Another advantage of training in the simulated environment is cost avoidance. During FY23, the DTOC executed 3,877 simulated events and trained 15,595 personnel while tallying 55,491 “ready aircrew” currency events. The DTOC enabled significant cost avoidance (the cost to complete these missions in the live environment), saving $1,079,224,711 by cutting aircraft and system fuel, maintenance and other operating costs.

Looking forward, the DTOC’s strategic initiatives include bringing together multi-service warfighters in uniform and a contract support team to enable informed strategies for training multiple weapon systems, partners, and services to a high level of relevancy and proficiency. The DTOC is postured for exponential growth in training with live aircraft across the services, aligning with the NDS.

“The USAF desperately needs to continue building networked training connections and capabilities for all warfighters, especially those that will be involved in the high-end fight if it happens in INDOPACOM,” said Havener. “Therefore, USAF and DoD readiness levels—true proficiency for integrated all-domain employment against a realistic all-domain threat—will be significantly improved as DTOC and other distributed mission operations agencies connect more warfighter training systems and capabilities. “

The DTOC serves as a testament to the Air National Guard’s commitment to innovation and adaptability in the face of emerging threats and challenges. By continuously evolving its training methodologies and leveraging technological advancements, the Air National Guard ensures that its personnel are equipped with the skills and capabilities needed to safeguard the nation’s security and respond effectively to any crisis.