U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --
The 4th Space Operations Squadron's Ground Mobile-3 truck pulled to the side of the dirt road it traveled, hamstrung by a flat tire. Other vehicles in the convoy assumed protective positions, and Airmen with 4th SOPS jumped out to establish a national defense area around the semi.
The convoy commander greeted two gentlemen who approached. The elder man owned the land where the GM-3 had stopped and offered his assistance. The convoy commander assured him everything was under control and exchanged contact information with the two gentlemen, who then left.
For Airmen used to "all-out war" in Jacks Valley, the above scenario May 17 was a change in tempo. The objective itself, however, was still the same: respond to threats against the GM-3, which is based at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., with appropriate use of force.
"Anywhere we stop is federal land, and we work with the landowner as best we can peacefully," Staff Sgt. Ben Lovejoy, 4th SOPS evaluator during the Jacks Valley training.
The first and most important rule of convoying is to keep moving, Sergeant Lovejoy said.
"Unless we hit a roadblock that we cannot penetrate, GM-3 always pushes through," he said.
The second rule is, should the GM-3 vehicle have to stop, know how to protect and defend it. Air Force Instruction 31-207, "Arming and Use of Force by Air Force Personnel," covers the protection of resources such as GM-3.
That protection can be as simple as letting the local landowner know what's going on; other times, it may require physical subdual or even deadly force.
The second training scenario was almost identical to the first, with one exception: this time, the landowner dashed toward the restricted area surrounding the GM-3. A 4th SOPS member restrained the landowner while the convoy commander simulated calling the FBI.
"We're trying to create scenarios that are practical and that we can use for static displays," Sergeant Lovejoy said. "In the second scenario, the convoy team correctly
determined the amount of force necessary to protect the asset."
The mobile operations team conducts training several times per year to ensure they remain sharp and ready to move the GM-3 anywhere the Department of Defense needs Milstar command-and-control capability, said Capt. Kenneth Lancaster, 4th SOPS chief of Milstar plans and tactics.
"We go from being satellite and maintenance operators to convoy members and defenders in order to protect one of Air Force Space Command's most important resources," Captain Lancaster said.
Lt. Col. Lee-Volker Cox and Maj. Theresa Malasavage, 50th Operations Group deputy commanders, and Lt. Col. Chris Moss, 4th SOPS director of operations, attended a portion of the training to familiarize themselves with the squadron's mobile mission.
"I'll do whatever you guys tell me to do out here," Colonel Moss said to the troops at one point. "I'm here to support your training." Soon after, he would find himself supporting their training by shooting at them—albeit with Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System equipment instead of real bullets.
Once GM-3 was on the road again, it encountered a vehicle parked as a roadblock. The convoy's lead van approached the broken down vehicle; the rest of the convoy stayed behind. The driver explained he was having some problems and would be out of their way in just a few moments. As the lead vehicle returned to its formation, reports of gunshots echoed from the woods. The all-out war was on.