98th Range Wing, NTTR prepare for transition

  • Published
  • By Charles Ramey
  • Nellis Public Affairs
It is the largest contiguous air and ground space available for military operations in the free world. With 1,200 possible targets, realistic threat systems and the support of an opposing enemy force that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world, the Nevada Test and Training Range is home to America's most-advanced aerial test and training environment, providing Airmen with a peacetime battlefield to hone their combat skills.

For nearly 10 years, oversight of the 2.9-million-acre range (42 percent of the land managed by the U.S. Air Force) and 12,000 square miles of military airspace has been the primary responsibility of one organization--the 98th Range Wing. With its heritage and lineage dating back to the formation of a post World War II bomb wing, the 98 RANW was activated at Nellis Air Force Base Oct. 29, 2001 to operate, maintain and manage the NTTR complex. June 21, the 98 RANW legacy will live on at Nellis, but the name will change as the unit is re-designated as The Nevada Test and Training Range--a direct reporting unit to the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center.

"Only one organization is concerned with all aspects of the entire NTTR, and for the past decade that's been the 98th Range Wing," said Col. John Montgomery, outgoing 98 RANW commander. "Few people know the true impact that the NTTR has on the safety of America's security. We're fortunate to have some of the most talented and experienced people in the Air Force who are engaged in the fight every day. They are the quiet enablers for the NTTR and their job is your mission--getting what you want accomplished on the range"

As the range operating authority, more than 1,000 military, civilian and contract personnel as part of the NTTR team, overseeing an $87 million annual budget and more than $500 million of electronic combat instrumentation equipment.

"The NTTR organization is largely about the daily administration and management of several one-of-a-kind Air Force contracts," Colonel Montgomery said. These contracts, the Range Support Services and Joint Range Technical Service Contracts are flexible, adaptive, responsive and lethal--few people outside this organization can truly understand what they do for the warfighter."

With its scope of responsibility, it would be easy for the 98 RANW to maintain the status quo, but under Colonel Montgomery's leadership, the organization has committed itself to proactively defending the NTTR mission.

"It took great willpower on our people's part over the past two years to make the NTTR the strategic issue of its day," Colonel Montgomery said. "At my first commander's call, I told our people that the range is in great peril and we had to bring the mission back out of the shadows and get the NTTR its own identity. We were also faced with an onslaught of renewable energy and compatible development issues, and with help of the 99th Air Base Wing and Air Combat Command, we were successful in building partnerships beyond the base to make this a national issue at Air Force and DoD levels."

As a result of these efforts, the NTTR received greater attention on the national stage and it became the benchmark for preserving military flight operations worldwide.

"The NTTR is the canary in the coal mine," Colonel Montgomery said. "We're the first to feel the impact of the (range and airspace) issues the Air Force faces. Our reaction sets the pace for the rest of our ranges. It is our will and responsibility to react that sets the stage for the future. If we are unwilling or do not react, we put all operating spaces at risk."

As the 98 RANW has worked to preserve the battlespace for today's fight, the organization is also focused on preparing the NTTR for the future.

"In 1975, the Air Force started a program called Coronet Real to design the type of range that we needed by 1990 to meet the emerging threats of the future," Colonel Montgomery said. "The Air Force built that vision here, and beginning in 1991 in Operation Desert Storm we started seeing the results firsthand. We are now at another infliction point--a point of revival and have introduced the Coronet Real "call-to-arms" concept and named it Coronet Real 2025 to once again improve the NTTR and to prepare it for the future full-spectrum conflict.

"The most important thing in the world is not love, food, or water," Colonel Montgomery concluded. "The most important thing is the world is air and you don't how much you need it until you have none. Well, we have the air represented by the NTTR airspace...it quite simply is the 'crown jewel of the Air Force' and preserving, protecting and modernizing that airspace is a national imperative."

The 98 RANW re-designation as the NTTR will take place at 10 a.m. June 21 at the Viper Aircraft Maintenance Hangar (Bldg. 297). Col. Kenneth Thompson, former defense and air attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, will assume command of the NTTR during the event.