ASTS and AES train together at Camp Dawson

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Grace Thomson
  • 911th Airlift Wing

The 911th Aeromedical Staging Squadron and 911th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, two medical squadrons on opposite sides of the 911th Airlift Wing, recently headed to Camp Dawson, West Virginia, to train together the week of June 18th.

Senior Master Sgt. David Miller, superintendent of nursing services with the 911th ASTS, planned a trip to train the squadrons together at Camp Dawson to teach the Airmen of both squadrons more about their jobs while in a combat situation. 

From June 18th to 24th, Airmen lived in bays and worked together on a wide variety of exercises. The two squadrons each worked on building relationships with their counterpart and completed tasks that both need to be skilled in.

The week included extensive litter training, building a large deployment tent, land navigation, an obstacle training course and even lessons on how to clear buildings of active shooters. All of these were designed to prepare Airmen for a deployed environment. 

There had been a few training exercises in the past combining these two squadrons, but not in the last few years, said Staff Sgt. Eric Decker, mental health technician with the 911th ASTS. 

The squadrons did not often plan joint training like this because, even though they have similar missions, they remain two separate squadrons. Instead, they normally chose to plan for such extensive training within their squadron. 

For Capt. Sarah May, flight nurse with 911th AES, this was the first time she had ever trained with the 911th ASTS since she started her Air Force career five years ago.

“This is the first time I’ve done any joint training with ASTS but I know there are some things we do collaborate with the ASTS on, one thing being the EMT refresher that all of our medical technicians have to go through every two years,” said May.

Though for some of these Airmen this was the first time working with their counterparts, they found a rhythm fairly quickly. They worked with different people for each task, yet they still worked together seamlessly throughout the week.

“The way that the two squadrons came together, it doesn’t really seem that we are two squadrons at this point in the trip,” said Decker nearing the end of the training. “It just seems that we are one group of people doing a common job.”

According to Capt. Brenden Stokes, clinical nurse with 911th ASTS, the two squadrons worked very well together even through difficulties such as weather and schedule changes.

The overall objective was achieved and everything came together naturally, said Stokes. Airmen participated in training that they wouldn’t normally receive, even when facing multiple challenges.

One challenge that was present throughout the week was that the schedule had to be changed each day due to weather. Starting June 19th and continuing throughout the week a Blackhawk helicopter was scheduled to come work with the squadrons on loading patients yet couldn’t make it due to low visibility. 

Even with all the weather changes, Airmen kept their spirits high and made the best of the week while learning how to collaborate, said Stokes. Their hopes thankfully were not in vain, as the helicopter eventually came to Pittsburgh the next week thanks to clear skies.

In a deployed environment, personnel are mixed with Airmen from squadrons stationed all over the country. The training at Camp Dawson was meant to simulate this type of situation. Working with Airmen they have never met before can help an Airman learn how to resolve conflict in a timely manner. 

“Observing the two units working so well together was very refreshing and I hope to continue building bonds with these guys,” said Decker. 

He is not the only one to feel this way. May said, “It was just a good time to build those relationships and make points of contact.”

While the whole trip was Miller’s brainchild, he said that he can’t take all the credit. 

“It was a learning curve for sure,” Miller said about planning the trip. “We had some help from the people here at Camp Dawson, and Security Forces helped us out a lot as well.”

“It has been a great overall experience and I would definitely do it again in the future,” said May.

Both Miller and Stokes, as well as others throughout the week, said that the trip went well overall. Though there were some minor setbacks, the teams made the best of it exemplifying the character of Steel Airmen. They came, they trained and they conquered.