123rd Airlift Wing completes first ‘fly-away’ self-inspection
By Staff Sgt. Joshua Horton, 123rd Airlift Wing
/ Published July 18, 2019
APLENA, Mich. -- The 123rd Airlift Wing completed Charred Barrel, a groundbreaking readiness exercise here June 22-25 involving 235 Kentucky Air National Guardsmen and two C-130 Hercules aircraft.
Designed to test the wing’s ability to mobilize, fly to a remote site and operate in a simulated hostile environment, Charred Barrel marked the first instance in which the wing inspected itself as part of a major “fly-away” exercise, according to Lt. Col. Amy Mundell, inspector general for the 123rd Airlift Wing.
“This exercise is unique in that we developed and evaluated it ourselves,” Mundell said. “In previous exercises, such as an Operational Readiness Inspection, higher headquarters would provide the inspection and the scenario, and then evaluate us. This time we did it all ourselves. Not only did we create the exercise, we participated in it and had to evaluate it.
“We used subject matter expertise from every functional area that was going to participate in the exercise,” Mundell continued. “We looked at scenarios, we looked at the war-time taskings for these folks, and then we started going through the process of developing the injects.”
This new self-inspection approach — now standard practice across the Air Force — allows the wing to identify areas of improvement while supporting the commander’s intent, Mundell said.
“Our wing commander can essentially develop all of the objectives for the exercise, ensuring we’re aligned with Air Mobility Command’s requirements,” she said. “So the wing commander provides commander’s intent, and we develop an exercise around it and send our own evaluators in to make a determination on whether units are meeting that intent.”
Notionally deployed as the 123rd Air Expeditionary Group, the Kentucky Airmen provided tactical airlift support to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command during the exercise.
Lt. Col. David Flynn, who served as group commander for Charred Barrel, saw the exercise as a success.
“Exercises like this are valuable to prove our capabilities and boost everyone’s confidence in the wing and how we can perform under stress,” said Flynn, who is deputy commander of the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Operations Group back home in Louisville. “It verifies that we can operate in an environment we’ve never operated in before.
“We conducted operations like normal while we are being inspected because if we get good results from the inspection, it just shows that we do our job well on a daily basis,” he continued. “Everyone kept a positive attitude the whole time and really worked well together. I think it all went extremely well.”
Mundell lauded the wing’s performance while praising the inspection team that made the exercise possible.
“Everybody pitched right in and worked extremely hard,” she said. “It was a highly dedicated and committed group of individuals who ensured that we were able to pull off the exercise successfully.
“We were pleased with the outcome of the inspection,” Mundell added. “We identified room for improvement, but overall, the wing performed very well.”