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Seniors prepare for joint force experience in spring CULEX

Senior cadets using flight simulatorsCadets use flight simulators in the multi-domain lab during the spring culminating exercise at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., March 18, 2023. The CULEX simulated a joint forces scenario testing teamwork, leadership and agile combat employment skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Pacheco)

By Blaire Brush
U.S. Air Force Academy Strategic Communications

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Senior cadets’ operational thinking and strategic understanding were put to the test this semester with a multi-domain training approach for soon-to-be second lieutenants.

The Spring Culminating Exercise (CULEX) is a test of senior cadets’ ability to practically apply knowledge and skills they’ve gained throughout their time at the Academy.

“It is an amazing opportunity to be fully immersed with our own mini Red Flag exercise,” said Cadet First Class Eric Kenes, cadet wing commander.

“The ability to have more realistic and comprehensive operations planning and management with minimal risk provides me the comfort to think outside the box and attack the scenario as a team,” he said.

Preparing for the future fight

Over the last three months senior cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy participated in mission planning and analysis experiences within operational teams. Many cadets were put on teams based on their assigned careers in the U.S. Air Force or U.S. Space Force. That team-based planning led to a 4-hour graded CULEX. As part of the exercise, cadets were presented a joint force scenario with real-world adversaries, testing the cadets’ leadership, teamwork and agile combat employment skills.

The commandant of cadets said the complex nature of the future fight requires a focus on multi-domain integration now.

“The experience our seniors gained from this exercise provides a robust foundation to better understanding joint operations and how we integrate with other services,” said Brig. Gen. Paul Moga.

Fostering teamwork

“Our goal is to focus on team cohesion and provide some connective tissue that these future lieutenants will need to better comprehend where they fit in the joint fight,” said Moga. “This is about preparing our cadets for a career in the profession of arms.”

Kenes said he feels more prepared for his future as a pilot in the Air Force after helping lead the CULEX this semester.

“The fact that we are exposed and executing missions like the CULEX as cadets shows that we are better prepared than ever to fight the future fight and defend our nation,” Kenes said. “This CULEX is an opportunity to prove to ourselves and our wingman that we are ready for whatever may come our way in the future.”

Kenes, a computer science major, also said his four years of education and training at the Academy helped equip him with the skills needed for this exercise.

“The structure of my four years as a cadet gave me the opportunity to develop the tools needed to operate a scenario of this magnitude. Our Academy understands that these patterns are not cemented overnight, but rather through breaking down the big picture each class year until I am able to think and execute as an officer.”

Cadets build a temporary shelterCadets build a temporary shelter during the spring culminating exercise at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., March 18, 2023. (U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Pacheco)

As the seniors participated in the CULEX this spring, the lower three classes participated in training to prepare the freshman cadets for recognition next month.

More photos of the CULEX are available at: FLICKR