Historic Milestone: 432nd ACMS Joins Red Flag 24-1

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Victoria Nuzzi
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The 432nd Aircraft Communications Maintenance Squadron, the only ACMS in the United States Air Force, made history with its first-ever participation in Red Flag 24-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, from Jan.15-Feb. 2, 2024.

During Red Flag, the 432nd ACMS performed simulated defensive cyber operations on a mock MQ-9 network. On the mock network, the team prevented intrusions and malicious execution by a simulated adversary.

The 432nd ACMS is a squadron under the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing. Their mission has three main components: to provide maintenance for ground control stations, provide Mission Defense Team capabilities and to maintain the Fixed Satellite Stationary Terminal.

A ground control station is essentially an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft cockpit. The MDT provides mission assurance through passive network monitoring on the MQ-9 enterprise networks. The FSST provides satellite communications support by maintaining the antennas that relay information to the satellites that communicate with the MQ-9.

“The MQ-9 is, in a way, one large flying computer,” said 1st Lt. Charles Kendley, 432nd ACMS Officer-in-Charge of the MDT. “Due to that, you need cyber-knowledgeable people who know how to operate on the cyber components of the MQ-9 Reaper.”

Participating in Red Flag tested and confirmed the team’s ability to protect MQ-9 networks in various scenarios. Those who take part are classified as the Blue team, and simulated adversaries are classified as the Red team.

“We learned a tremendous amount and are definitely taking a lot of what we learned back to Creech with us,” said Senior Airman Jace Tomaino, 432nd ACMS MDT operator. “We received a better understanding of the tools at our disposal.”

The 432nd ACMS was not the only 432nd Wing squadron making its Red Flag debut. A 432nd Operations Support Squadron member was on the same team as the 432nd ACMS. His role was to identify the simulated adversary during the exercise.

“Working alongside the ACMS has been extremely beneficial, especially as we begin to increasingly collaborate on real-world scenarios,” said Airman 1st Class Jose Sosa III, 432nd OSS intelligence analyst. “Learning how the MDT works has been an asset that will definitely help us work together in the future.”

Though they are categorized as part of the 432nd Maintenance Group, Airmen who work at the 432nd ACMS train to be cyber operators. Due to its unique mission set, personnel are required to learn a large amount of additional information on the job.

“432nd ACMS airmen come in as cyber operators, and when they get to such a rare assignment, they have to relearn everything,” said Kendley. “For example, they never learn anything about satellite capabilities in technical training and, with GCS maintenance, that is a large part of their job here. Their ability to learn new information and thrive with a previously unknown skillset is amazing to see.”

The 432nd ACMS has grown in recent years as the mission of the 432nd Wing continues to grow and expand into different areas of responsibility, and it will continue to do so.

“Nothing is set in stone for the ACMS, but the future looks pretty exciting,” said Kendley. “As more remotely piloted aircraft pop up, I think it’s important that we have more squadrons like ours that can better work with RPAs at other bases.”