Nebraska Air National Guard Civil Engineers Practice Contingency Operations at Silver Flag

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mary E. Thach
  • 155 ARW/PA
Sixty-four Airmen from the 155th Civil Engineering Squadron traveled to Silver Flag, a military training site near Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., July 9 through 16 to train with newly developed engineering equipment and operate in a contingent environment.

Silver Flag allowed the members of the CES to perform combat support training during a four-day course with another day of bare-base construction with war scenarios. They also participated in classroom instruction directed specifically toward services, personnel support for contingency operations and Civil Engineering career fields.

The CES is required to train at Silver Flag every 45 months to ensure operational readiness and keep Airmen current on their knowledge of operating the latest equipment.

"We go there to prepare to operate in a contingent environment," Tech. Sgt. Sarah A. Bredthauer, non commissioned officer in charge of the simulated deployment. "It's as close as we can get to contingency operations. We are the first ones there setting up tents, generators, reverse osmosis water purification units, and plumbing."

Generally, civil engineers arrive early in the building or maintaining of a base in a real-world deployment. Their job is to ensure the base is functional, complete with latrines, showers, electricity, roads, pure water, air conditioning or heat, and many more modern conveniences to provide a comfortable environment for deployed troops. But their main priority is paramount for the mission.

"Our main priority is repairing the airfield, so if there is any kind of runway damage, that is our main priority before we bed down the base," said Bredthauer.
If the training itself wasn't difficult enough, the weather was a major challenge the entire week.

By the third day of training, so much rain had fallen that four tents housing the Airmen flooded forcing them to move to different living quarters. Along with the rain, heat and humidity were constant issues, but the Airmen continued their training, completed their classes, and learned new skills.

For many Airmen, this was their first trip to Silver Flag. Staff Sgt. Tyler Loos, a fireman from CES and first time traveler to Silver Flag said his favorite part of the training was working with live fires. The fires were started with jet fuel to be an accurate representation of what the firemen might deal with in a real-life situation.

Airman 1st Class Brandon J. Dejong, a member of the roads and grounds shop was also a first time participant and said he was prepared for the scenarios presented during the week because of the training the CES received in November 2010, in North Dakota. Dejong was responsible for digging up and replacing a patch of concrete slab to demonstrate his ability to perform this task down range. He said he was glad to participate in the training because he was able to practice the detailed work his job requires.

According to Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey A. Horne, fire chief in the CE Unit Control Center, team building among members of different units was the key for the training to be successful.

"One of the biggest challenges was trying to bring all of the firefighters from different bases together to make one team," said Horne. "We had Guard, Reserve and active duty firefighters from four different bases."

It didn't take long for the units came together and successfully proved the mission came first.

"Silver Flag gave us the opportunity to practice our war skills at a location where there (were) no interruptions and we had the opportunity to train on equipment that we don't currently have on base," said Horne.

Horne said he was happy with the performance of the Airmen and pleased they were so highly motivated.

"They are performing well above standards," he said. "Due to the ongoing deployment cycles, it is a must that Airmen are highly trained and ready to deploy."