Weapons School students apply skills during graduation exercise Published Dec. 9, 2010 By Senior Airman Michael Charles Nellis Public Affairs NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- The U.S. Air Force Weapons School completed its biannual two-week graduation exercise Dec. 9. The mission employment phase exercise is the final part of the six-month Weapons School Graduate Course and it provides an opportunity for the students to showcase their newly-acquired skills. "The Air Force is moving toward more ground support missions, so it is important to train thoroughly to accomplish them, as well as be prepared for any air-to-air scenarios we might face," said Maj. Kurt Helphinstine, Weapons School mission employment project officer. During the exercise, approximately 90 aircraft from both the Air Force and Navy participated in a staged battle on the Nevada Test and Training Range. More than 5,000 personnel were involved in this final phase of the Weapons School Graduate Course. "The lessons learned during the mission employment phase exercise on how to approach a problem, solve the problem and derive ideas to improve are universal to any scenario that may be seen in the future," said Capt. Robin Turner, Weapons School instructor. The exercise includes 10 flying windows called vuls. Each vul highlights the importance of squadrons cooperatively working together to accomplish advanced missions effectively. By encouraging operators from bombers, transportation, command and control, refueling, fighter and surveillance aircraft to work with space operators, intelligence officers and special and air operations center personnel, the mission employment phase exercise prepares Weapons School students for overseas operations. "This exercise is intense," Major Helphinstine said. "The students are required to incorporate all assets we have across the three domains of air, space and cyberspace to work cooperatively to effectively accomplish the mission." The NTTR, which is administered by the 98th Range Wing, offers a one-of-a-kind training experience for the future graduates of the Weapons School. Besides the size, which accounts for 40 percent of the land managed by the Air Force, the range offers threat simulators and targets which help conduct the most realistic exercise possible. "The Nevada Test and Training Range and the 98th Range Wing are absolutely critical to what we do here at the Weapons School," Captain Turner said. "Without the use of their airspace and threat emitters, we would not be able to accurately replicate the adversary forces we are training to defeat." "The mountainous terrain of the range helps us to be as realistic as possible in a training environment," Major Helphintine said. Composed of 17 squadrons, the Weapons School teaches graduate-level instructor courses that provide the world's most advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to officers of the combat air forces. Each graduate takes back to their respective squadrons the latest tactics, techniques and procedures for air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. "The main purpose of the Weapons School is to create weapons instructors," Major Helphinstine said. "Hopefully, the students who graduate from the Weapons School can apply what they learned and teach those around them at their home station." "The one-of-a-kind training we give our students at the Weapons School gives them the opportunity plan and execute the full range of Air Force capabilities," Captain Turner added. The U.S. Air Force Weapons School will graduate 87 officers from class 10-B during ceremonies at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas Dec. 11.