All posts by dfaggard

Urban, IED Detection and Convoy Training for Airmen

The past two training days opened eyes to what American servicemembers are experiencing in deployed locations supporting contingencies around the world.  However, specific details like tactics, techniques and procedures learned during these parts of the training will not be discussed due to their sensitive nature and potential for being used against our men and women in uniform.  Only generalities will be discussed. 

The urban training for Airmen was primarily for familiarization to what other services do.  Average Airmen aren’t experts in this type of combat, nor are they normally trained or equipped to be experts in this for this is not their primary mission.  The training we went through provided basic insight into how this type of combat is conducted.  The training solidified more teamwork and had our small teams moving, shooting and engaging in unison.  It was interesting, intense, stressful and fun and we have a deeper respect for our forces who do this mission.

Unlike engagements in an urban setting, many Airmen do find themselves in convoys, whether as riders or active gunners.  Our instructor reflected on the more than 300 missions he performed while in Iraq and discussed a lot of the pressures and scenarios as they happened to him when he rolled out the gates of his FOB. 

So are Airmen in convoys?  Yes.  Some may think that America’s airpower only comes from the skies supporting Soldiers and Marines on the ground with smart bombs, but Airmen do perform and are in convoys being hit today.  See how Air Force Airmen are engaged here and past accounts here, and here.

It was even more real when the instructor stated that all Airmen will land at an airfield somewhere, then will have to get to their base and “may need these skills to convoy.”  This couldn’t have been more true. 

This is an on-going series about the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Contingency Skills Training at Ft. Dix, NJ.  More than 9,000 Airmen come through this course annually.

U.S. Air Force’s A-CST Day 3

We’re physically beat and have a greater appreciation for our friends in the U.S. Army who are being such great hosts here at Ft. Dix; so for now, here’s a few photos from today’s classes. This is an ongoing series about a few hundred Airmen attending the U.S. Air Force’s A-CST training at Ft. Dix.  The class is designed to teach skills to Airmen deploying in the coming months.

Teamwork, Communication, and Commitment are a few principles stressed during today’s training of shooting popup targets during livefire and learning how to exit a Humvee after it had flipped over.  The Humvee rollover simulator (H.E.A.T.) was a lot of fun and a great learning tool.  We’ll post video on our Youtube channel when we get back: www.youtube.com/afbluetube.

A member of Hotel Flight fires at her target in the 'pop-up' range.  This was much different that the typical Air Force CATM shooting we normally do.  Lots of fun.
Tech. Sgt. Sarah Jenkins, a member of Hotel Flight, fires at her target. Yes, that tiny little green thing way in the distance is a target - 300 meters.
TSgt. Craig, a contracting NCO, "Spooman" prepares for his turn in the Humvee rollover simulator.
TSgt. Craig "Spoonman", a contracting NCO, prepares for the Humvee rollover.
Hotel Flight spins in the Humvee rollover simulator.  Wicked fun.
Hotel Flight spins in the Humvee rollover simulator. Wicked fun. All photos courtesy of SSgt. J.G. Buzanowski.

U.S. Air Force’s A-CST Day 2

To put it bluntly, today was grueling.  Working in unison as part of a fireteam was fun and challenging.  Throw in 40 pounds of equipment, an M-16 and the New Jersey rain, then the heat, then the wind after eight hours, was challenging.

Senior Airman Jeff Noel loads blank rounds into his magazine prior to training.
Senior Airman Jeff Noel loads blank rounds into his magazine prior to training.

What I liked? I liked the fact that teamwork is stressed at every level on every project all the time.  Move as a team; fire as a team; run as a team; save the Airman who’s injured, as a team.

The Cadre, or “Black Hats” as they’re referred to due to their instructor caps, stressed teamwork constantly.  Our Cadre member, a bigger than life Tech. Sgt. — Sgt. Ramos, stresses teamwork.  He’s reminiscent of that MTI I had from Lackland, tough, fair and honest.  Screw up and he lets you know — instantly; do well and the unit gets public praise.  The professionalism of the staff is great, but it’s there honest desire to want to impart their own personal deployed lessons’ learned on us that makes it that much better. 

Tomorrow promises new challenges.

This training is ‘intense’

This post was written by Senior Airman Jeff Noel an Air Force Intelligence Analyst stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, NE and is his personal account of the current training.

I was not sure what to expect from ACST. The training is different from any other Air Force training I have been through. It is defiantly more intense than the training I received at BMT [Basic Training]. There was lots of running, moving and shooting. The instructors throw a lot of information at you in a short amount of time and expect you to perform. The training is designed to keep Airmen alive when deployed and when they are engaged with an enemy.

Instructors taught us how to move as individuals and as a team. From the very beginning the instructors stress the importance of communication and unit cohesion. For the safety of the unit, communication is key. Communicating well ensures that everybody knows what is going on and that nobody is in the wrong place. When the unit works together to get the job done, things go much more smoothly, limiting the possibility of error.

Because I have not had any other combat training other than what was provided during my short time at BMT, I feel this training will be useful when I deploy in the future. I don’t know if I will be going “outside the wire”, but I will feel much more comfortable knowing I have somewhat of an idea of what I should be doing.

I think this training should be required for all deployers because we don’t know what our job will be while deployed. Anyone in the Air Force could be going “outside the wire” with the Army on convoys or other patrols.

It’s not quite the same as a comfortable office chair with a snack bar down the hallway. All in all, I feel the training will be well worth my time here at Ft. Dix.

U.S. Air Force’s A-CST Day One

Advanced Contingency Skills Training Day One — This is the first in a series from Airmen at the U.S. Air Force’s Expeditionary Center who are attending various classes in order to prepare them for upcoming deployments.  Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski offers this post.  Future posts will highlight the efforts Airmen are taking at this “schoolhouse” to prepare them.  The Air Force and Airmen are in the fight — 70% deployed since 9-11, said the service’s senior Airman.  We’ll post more here (photos and video too) from the various Airmen in the course.

“The hope is that you never have to use what we have to teach you.”

Airpower ... from the ground up!
Airpower ... from the ground up!

And with that, the Advanced Contingency Skills Training course began for several hundred of us at Fort Dix, N.J., today.

What’s significant is the mix of people in the class. There are several of us Public Affairs specialists, but we also have people from contracting, civil engineers and our squad leader is a flight doctor. Certainly not the high-speed fly-away security teams that train to go into combat areas to protect planes (those guys are training in the building next to ours — wow!).

But the Air Force has recognized the need for every Airman to get training when going downrange. There have been too many times when routine convoy missions became anything but because of roadside bombs or insurgent attacks.

They promise us that we’ll be tired, we’ll be sore and we’ll learn to love the mud. But at the end of the course, we’ll have gained skills to defend ourselves and others if we’re out and about while we’re deployed.

The great irony that they hope we’ll never use the skills they impart doesn’t make what they teach a waste of time and money. Rather, they share with us their own stories of when they were deployed. Like when one cadre member explained of his own recollections of being blown off the road in a convoy — yes, he’s an Airman.

This cadre member also told us about the servicemember who saved his (cadre) life only to lose his own four days before he was about to leave.

Another instructor generalized his bevy of his 14 deployments. And he’s traditionally an aerospace ground equipment mechanic.

So overall our instructors are here because they want to be here. “We want you to learn from our experiences,” the instructors tell us. They certainly have a lot of it.

Our collective hope is that once we’re no longer students, the instructors get their wish and we don’t have to use these new or re-honed skills. But if we do need them, we’ve got them.