Wing intel provides competitive edge in information warfare

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Foster
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing, Public Affairs

Since its creation in 1947, the U.S. Air Force has been engaged in an ongoing competition to gather and maintain timely and relevant information. In efforts to gain a competitive edge, individual wings have been equipped with intelligence analysts to collect, assess and manage access to pertinent information.

The 6th Operations Support Squadron intelligence flight, headed by Maj. Andrew Schafter, 6th OSS senior intelligence officer, 1st Lt. Cassidy Ley-Han, 6th OSS intelligence officer in charge of readiness, and 1st Lt. McKenna DePue, 6th OSS intelligence OIC of operations, is dedicated to bringing the most accurate and timely information to installation leaders, utilizing their connections to ensure the operational readiness and safety of thousands of Airmen across MacDill Air Force Base.

As a whole, the team is focused on ensuring the safety of the entire installation; to include U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and several other joint mission partners.

One method of ensuring security is through threat working groups (TWG). These meetings are a collaboration of intelligence, security forces and joint mission partner representatives, designed to proactively address potential threats to the installation.

“A TWG isn’t necessarily tied to a present threat, we meet routinely with the security forces commander, and talk through anything we may have noticed and anything we feel may arise,” Ley-Han said. “In addition to the wing commander, we also meet with representatives from CENTCOM and SOCOM because they’re equally affected by these potential threats.”

According to Ley-Han, since the introduction of the internet in 1983, open-source intelligence has been on the rise, and with the rapid influx of quickly uploaded information came the concern for its use by adversaries.

Serving as the Air Force’s information filters, OSS intelligence flights are tasked to fact-check, synthesize and route relevant information to the appropriate channels.

“Intelligence has shifted a lot with the internet,” DePue said. “50 years ago, people couldn’t pull out a phone and record something. Now, our adversaries know how important that information is, and they will use that to their advantage. Our job is to verify that information and filter through false narratives so our command team can have an accurate view of global events.”

Aside from their day-to-day responsibilities, intelligence officers are tasked with the duty to test and evaluate the readiness of Airmen across the installation.

On occasion, the intelligence flight is directed by higher Air Force leaders to hone high priority skills. Recently, the team played a vital role in localizing scenarios for Exercise Global Thunder, an operational readiness response scenario developed by U.S. Strategic Command.

“Global Thunder was a STRATCOM driven exercise, so we were given information from Air Mobility Command on threats to implement and objectives to accomplish,” Ley-Han said. “These types of exercises are important because it shows us what AMC and higher Air Force leaders are focusing on and that helps us better align with their priorities.”

During the exercise, Ley-Han and her team were essential to the wing’s success. Important information was passed from STRATCOM to AMC to 6th OSS intel analysts in efforts to relay pertinent information while retaining operational security for the exercise.

OSS intelligence analysts are also occasionally given the opportunity to connect with the tactical impact of their work. During Exercise Mobility Guardian, 6th OSS intel analysts were tied with aircrews during a month-long operation in the Indo-Pacific area of responsibility. Here, analysts exercised their pre and post mission skills and engaged in real time feedback..

“Sending our analysts out to support aircrew provides them with a better connection to the work they are completing,” DePue said. “It gives them a better understanding of how the information is being utilized and really makes them feel like they’re part of the fight.”

As a result of the exercise, 6th OSS intel analysts were able to gain invaluable insight to the joint operations environment and further developed partnerships with indispensable regional allies. Through their contributions, AMC was able to bolster posture in the Indo-Pacific AOR, expanding the range of mobility assets and sustaining military power across the globe.

The 6th OSS intelligence flight capitalizes on every opportunity to develop their skills, inform their command team and ensure the operational readiness of all 6th ARW Airmen and their mission partners.

Intelligence offices across the Air Force have given a distinct advantage to the Joint Force, ensuring their capability to project and sustain immediate power, anytime and anywhere.

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