Airmen join services in combat training before deployment
By Air Force Print News
/ Published October 12, 2006
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Tyndall has sent 18 Airmen to attend Army ground combat skills training, preparing them for operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom deployments.
The Airmen require the training because they will be assigned duties outside their normal Air Force specialties. In the near-term, these numbers are expected to increase substantially.
One Tyndall Airman, Capt. J. Elaine Hunnicutt from the 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, is undergoing this training now.
"The Army CST program is beneficial for Airmen to get acclimated to the Army customs and way of life," she said. "I have no doubt that the Airman that leave here will leave with a greater sense of the threats that await us abroad and a higher level of comfort for the equipment and weapons that we deploy with."
The aim of ILO training is to prepare Airmen for nontraditional combat environments in support of the combatant commanders' requirements where Airmen are deployed to assist Army personnel. Second Air Force wants to support all Airmen engaged in this enhanced, realistic training and address their current and future service needs.
"Very few of us knew each other when we first got here," said Maj. Brenda Frye, support team commander. "We (divided) into an Army company, platoon and squad. For a squad you (have) a driver, a combat life saver, two gunners and a troop commander. You learn how to work with all those people. Our Airmen have stepped up and done a really good job out here."
"The training definitely makes you appreciate what you have," said Captain Hunnicutt. "The Soldiers live a hard life. There is reason for that, they are put into harms way on the battlefield every day.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley tasked 2nd Air Force to manage the oversight of Airmen throughout their training cycle for "in-lieu-of" taskings and individual augmentee taskings to the United States Central Command area of responsibility. This is the first team to graduate since that tasking.
Tech. Sgt. Alphonso Smith, a readiness NCO at Brooks City Base, San Antonio, said he advises Airmen to be mentally and physically prepared before entering ILO training.
"The Army believes in repetition, so that (a procedure) is embedded," Sergeant Smith said. "When a grenade goes off, it's second nature for you to know exactly what to do."
Under ILO taskings, Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines from a cross-section of military specialties are performing nontraditional missions to provide temporary augmentation. ILO training is designed to develop a population of Airmen who are combat-ready and able to fulfill duties outside their normal Air Force specialty.
"I'm extremely grateful for our high-caliber Airmen who have taken on the challenges of ILO training," said Col. Scott Schafer, vice commander at 2nd Air Force.
"I have been told on more than one occasion 'Thank you' - because the Air Force is stepping up to fill position for the Army," Captain Hunnicutt said. "It means that Soldiers can have more time with their families before that next rotation."
Colonel Schafer expressed his gratitude at a picnic held for the Airmen and their families. He thanked the families for their support and prayers "because without them, the Airmen couldn't have successfully accomplished the training," he said.
Col Schafer challenged the graduates, who came together from 50 bases, to continue the partnership that was forged four years ago between the U.S. and Afghanistan.
"Airmen join hands with Army embedded training teams and work with the new Afghan National Army to come together to rebuild that country," he said. "I can't think of a greater, more exciting challenge that you have before you to be part of history, to be part of helping Afghanistancome to see that freedom that they've never seen before."
The four-week course included theater immersion training activities such as individual movement techniques, mounted combat patrols, improvised explosion device identification training, and combat lifesaver training. The course also included support missions exercises, night-firing weapons training, base defense training and combat tactics exercises.
Major Frye said the training also included a five-day field training exercise for convoy operations. She said the training incorporated relevant scenarios geared toward experiences and expected situations in current deployed environments.
"The most important thing we gained from our experience here was to be comfortable with carrying and firing a loaded weapon," Major Frye said. "Everyone got a lot more comfortable with (his or her) M-16 and M-9."
"The Army is happy to have us here and the Airmen are eager to learn and get into the fight," Captain Hunnicutt said.