Maintaining deployment readiness

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jonathan Hehnly
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Approximately 50 Airmen from the 911th Airlift Wing loaded up and travelled in a convoy of tactical military vehicles destined for an Army National Guard training site in Kingwood, West Virginia recently.

Beginning June 6, 2016, the Pittsburgh-based group, consisting mostly of 911th Security Forces Squadron personnel, made Camp Dawson its home for the week to conduct annual tour training.

“The week-long training is geared toward deployment and focused on expeditionary skills,” said Senior Master Sgt. Justin Hovancik, 911th Security Forces Squadron, operations superintendent. “Everything is about building our Airmen and preparing them to go down range. It is the OJT [on-the-job-training] that they need to complete SF duties.” 

The expeditionary skills training for the week included land navigation, convoy operations, Humvee egress assistance training, and military operations in urban terrain.

Using a lensatic compass and a topographical map, Airmen were taught how to orient themselves and navigate their way through a briery mountain land navigation course. The rough terrain of Camp Dawson also gave 911th SFS members experience in driving the high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles and light medium tactical vehicles on irregular surfaces, as would be necessary in a deployed environment.

The SFS personnel trained with the HMMWV and LMTVs on the winding roads of Camp Dawson to conduct convoys and mounted operations. The Army National Guard installation even had a HMMWV egress assistance trainer or Humvee rollover simulator. The HEAT trainer is designed to train military members in the effects of a vehicle rollover and how to react properly during emergency egress situations.

SFS members also trained heavily in dismounted operations and military operations in urban terrain. The MOUT training had fire teams bounding between buildings, making entries and clearing rooms in an urban environment.

While conducting training, the 911th SFS was presented with the opportunity to join the 119th Engineer Company (Sapper), West Virginia National Guard out of Moundsville, West Virginia, in a joint service exercise. The exercise also included the Army National Guard units, the 753rd Ordnance Company and the 150th Aviation Regiment. The 911th SFS members successfully applied their mounted and dismounted operations training as they worked alongside the Army to secure a village and a simulated enemy prisoner of war.

Several members of the 911th Aeromedical Staging Squadron were also participants in the joint exercise, working together with the Army’s medics to provide medical care to simulated Air Force and Army casualties.

The joint service relationship also allowed several Airmen the chance to rappel from a five-story tower under the oversight of the combat engineers. Fun was also had on a rock-wall that was on one of the tower’s sides.

Unique opportunities like these kept the motivation high for the young Airmen during the week full of long days of training and early morning workouts.

“It was worth it,” said Airman Jake Kennedy. “We can’t do this type of stuff at other places. I liked being outside and having the opportunity to take part in a lot of training I’ve never done before.”

For Airman Kennedy, one of the newest members of the 911th SFS, he stated he enjoyed the convoy operations training and the time at the range the best.

The 911th SFS combat arms training and maintenance instructors used the West Virginia Army National Guard’s modified record range to lead SFS members in day-and-nighttime M-4 rifle training. The MRF range utilizes pop-up targets ranging from 25 to 300 yards in distance, to train and test individuals on the skills necessary to identify, engage, and defeat stationary infantry targets.

Beyond just completing typical SF-specific training requirements, Airmen discovered the importance of teamwork while tackling the obstacles at the leadership reaction course. Each obstacle presented the squads with different challenges and tasks that helped them grow not only as a cohesive unit, but as individual leaders.

With the first week of annual tour training down and expeditionary skill training requirements met, 911th SFS members return to the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a week of law enforcement-specific training. The training, which will be focused on law enforcement practices, will include handcuffing techniques, responding to building alarms, conducting traffic stops and patrols, and entry control point and procedures.