155th Security Forces Squadron battles rain, heat, rising water to perform field training exercise
By Tech. Sgt. Alex Salmon, JFHQ - Nebraska
/ Published July 22, 2011
Camp Ashland, Neb. -- Not rain, record heat nor encroaching flood waters could keep the 155th Security Forces Squadron from performing their annual field training exercise at Camp Ashland, Neb., May 31-June 9. Members of the Nebraska Air National Guard's 155th SFS used the annual training to refresh their skills in a field environment.
The training was made up of two 18-person groups who rotated in and out of a camp site on the east bank of the slowly swelling Platte River. The groups set up their camp sites and were responsible for maintaining its security. They also used their time to conduct combat skills training courses and exercise their wartime tasks.
"We have a litany of combat skills tasks that we have to meet yearly...individual team movements, camouflage and concealment, ambushes - all those things," said Master Sgt. James Restau, unit training manager. "We can knock those out all in one shot."
"We learn this stuff in (technical) school," he added. "This is just a practice to get ready and keep all those skills fresh."
Other training the Airmen performed during the annual training included land navigation, weapons familiarization, radio reports, medevac missions and convoy missions. The training culminated with a mission to locate and eliminate a small group of "terrorists." The Airmen used paintball guns during the final exercise to increase the realism of the exercise.
"We're doing our skill-level training, our wartime tasking training," said Master Sgt. Daniel Emken, who is also in the training section of the SFS. "We try to get out to the field once a year to get this training done so that way they're ready when they deploy."
Along with assisting with training classes, organizers acted as opposing forces and often attacked the Airmen in order to test their response. Organizers wanted to give everyone a refresher, but also looked for leadership, teamwork and communication among the Airmen.
"Leadership is key in our job," said Restau. "The leadership skills are something that you learn over time. Everybody knows the fundamentals, so it's basically just a refresher."
"Teamwork is one of the biggest things," said Emken. "Communication is key, because if they're not communicating properly it just falls apart."
Restau said the training is invaluable to the newer Airmen and newly promoted noncommissioned officers who are beginning to assume leadership roles. But in addition to the leadership during tactical missions, the Airmen need to address other issues that are equally important, like living conditions and camp life.
"NCO leadership to me seems to be key...to see what it takes to run something like this, to take care of their people, to lead them out there," said Restau. "You get a staff sergeant leading a four-person fire team out through this facing four or six master sergeants that have been doing this for 20 years...they're going to learn a lot and they're going to get that experience."
Somewhat new to the leadership role was Tech. Sgt. Joshua Dannelly, a second squad leader with the 155th SFS. He saw the exercise as an opportunity to refresh skills and build some camaraderie with his fellow Airmen.
"Not only do we play an exercise where we have to defend this area...we're also conducting classes as well," said Dannelly. "Remedial training type of stuff that we've gone over before, but it's nice to get a little refresher - kind of kicking the dust off in a way."
"It's also teambuilding," he added. "There's quite a few people that are new to the unit that we don't know each other, so this is kind of a way to gauge each other and figure out what our strong points are."
Other team members also enjoyed the refresher.
"It's really good because there are several people that haven't gotten to do this yet, so it's real good training for the people coming up that haven't had the chance," said Senior Airman Lowell Wellman, a fire team member. "We all forget over time, it's just good to every now and again go back to the basics."
Keeping the SFS Airmen up to speed on their training is important for a very simple reason.
"We deploy," said Emken. "You have to be ready...we feel if we train them as best as we can for any environment and any situation with the resources that we have, that we set them up for success."
Both organizers and participants said the training was successful.
"It's gone really well," said Restau. "They still make mistakes -- and this is the place to make mistakes -- but they did really well. You see that improvement over the course of it."
"It's going good, they're learning," said Emken. "Each group has its own identity through their leadership and so far both groups have stayed motivated."
Despite the heat, the Airmen were happy to get out into the field and do something different than normal.
"It keeps us in the mindset of when we get tasked in the real world," said Dannelly. "The majority of the time we're doing base security - perimeter security."
"It's something we don't' get to do a whole lot of that we really should because it's the core of our job," said Wellman. "Being able to fight at a moment's notice."