The graduates of the 16+ days of training at Ft. Dix, N.J. have something to be proud of, they’ve learned valuable skills that may save their life, or the lives of their fellow joint servicemembers on the ground. Time and time again, we heard plenty of stories from Airmen and Soldiers about Airmen performing more and more ground missions outside the wire. Gun truck stories, patrols, medical evacuations, you name it, it came up here.
An interesting point about this training has been that it appears to be creating a cultural shift in the Air Force, one from the ground up. Training and educating a few Airmen at a time on skills necessary to contribute to the fights on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of this training is completely new to Airmen. The ground up training is led by the”senior” folks teaching the classes who weren’t senior in age or rank, but senior in experience. Most instructors were Staff and Tech. Sgts; they were pros! Real pros with experience, motivation and Airmanship and these very few are providing skills that “hopefully will never be used,” according to an instructor on the first day.
The training from one student, Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski: “The training at the Air Force Expeditionary Center was above and beyond training I’ve received at other locations run by other services. The instructors pride themselves on their ability to motivate and stay motivated. That esprit de corps makes learning the material they have to teach more approachable and easier to retain.
Personally I know I’ll be using the skills we learned while we were here. When I deploy, I know I’ll be on convoys, I’ll have to know how to defend a forward operating base and if someone gets hurt, I feel confident that I’d be able to help keep them alive until medical professionals can treat them.
The biggest benefit for me has been the chance to document the course by carrying a camera and notepad on almost all our training days. As a result, I have more than a thousand photos for people to take home and remember not only what we learned, but with whom we all learned these valuable skills. We’ve made friends and gotten to know people who will deploy and work with us. I can’t wait to look them up when I get downrange.
For many Airmen, continuing to serve in the Air Force is largely due to the people in it. The last three weeks have been a testament to that thought as we prepare to go into harm’s way alongside these new comrades in arms. The confidence we have in ourselves and in our fellow Airmen will make mission accomplishment that much easier.”
This post is part of a series on the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Contingency Skills Training at the Expeditionary Center at Ft. Dix, N.J. Photos and video will be posted soon.