Silver Flag; developing competent and confident combat Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The Silver Flag exercise site, located at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, is home to the 823rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers (RED HORSE), Detachment 1, a unit dedicated to providing contingency combat support training to multiple Air Force specialties.

Throughout the 10-day course, Airmen are pushed through classroom briefings on the Rapid Airfield Damage Repair process, which make up the bulk of the course. After their initial briefing, students are divided into their individual specialty courses, which includes force support, explosive ordnance disposal, fire protection, civil engineering and contracting. However, one of the most unique parts of the course is the fire protection aspect which is a tri-annual requirement for all fire-protection Airmen.

Master Sgt. Jesse Marshall, 823 RHS, Det. 1, section chief of fire contingency training, explained that while a firefighter’s job can be pretty straightforward, training opportunities like Silver Flag provide realistic experiences and prepare Airmen for the unexpected.

“A firefighter’s job doesn’t really change home station versus a deployed environment, either way we put the wet stuff on the red stuff,” said Marshall. “We are unique in what we teach out here at Silver Flag because of our accessibility to low density items that home station training environments don’t usually have, things like the mobile aircraft arresting system, the PRC-152 radios and of course the pit.”

Silver Flag has multiple live-fire training props to include a life-sized combustible airframe used to simulate the effects of an aircraft fire.

“Our fire pit is the only one [in the Air Force] that is totally contained and authorized to used Jet A [jet fuel] and discharge foam into it,” said John Taipalus, 823 RHS, Det. 1, fire equipment and facility support. “That’s what makes our pit stand out.”

Taipalus explained that over the last 20 years the Air Force has moved from using jet fuel and toward training with propane systems. The operator will turn on the propane and ignite a fire during training, prompting a fireman to utilize his training and try to put the fire out. When the operator feels that the fireman did what he was supposed to do, they shut the propane off and the fire goes out, simulating what would happen in a real world scenario.

“Our system, however, uses thermal imaging cameras,” Taipalus explained. “There are four around the pit that sense different heat signatures, so as you start the fire, it builds more heat and will automatically spread from one burn area to the next until the entire pit is engulfed in flames if you’ve got it programed to do so.”

This advancement in technology allows for a more realistic training environment and prepares the Air Force’s firemen for real world scenarios.

Airman 1st Class Oliver Edmunds, 87th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst, New Jersey, attended Silver Flag for the first time this year and explained that during his initial training upon joining the Air Force, he only trained with propane fueled fires.

“It was definitely still fire, it was hot but working with real jet fuel fire was far more realistic,” said Edmunds. “We needed this, because if we have to deal with a tragedy like a real aircraft crash, that’s what it’s really going to feel like.”

Hosting tenant units like 823rd RHS, Det. 1, pushes Tyndall’s mission of training and projecting unrivaled combat airpower to the next level. Airmen, whether flying jets, fighting fires or disarming bombs, are the foundation of air dominance.