DUKE FIELD, Fla. --
Members of the 919th Special Operations Wing spent a week at the Silver Flag exercise site at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia to complete a comprehensive Field Training Exercise simulating a deployed environment.
On Feb. 4, 55 Airmen from the 919th SOW loaded a C-130 aircraft headed to Georgia to complete this critical deployment training.
"The driving factor for conducting this off-site FTX was to have full access to resources needed for pre-deployment training," said Tech. Sgt. Ethan Fink, unit deployment manager for the 919th Special Operations Mission Support Group.
Although members of the 919th SOW work year-round to maintain their readiness in the event of a deployment, the participants in this FTX had a unique opportunity to experience field conditions that simulate the deployed environment.
"The realism of the environment was the best part of this exercise,” said Lt. Col. Kelly Gwin, deputy commander of the 919th SOMSG. "We had a lot of first-time deployers who didn't know what to expect...they got a chance to feel what it's like, living and sleeping in tents. It was very eye-opening."
In addition to simulating a deployed living and working environment, Airmen were able to complete the rest of their hands-on deployment training, including self-aid and buddy care; chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapon awareness and response; and small-arms weapons qualifications.
Exercise participants included 919th SOW personnel from finance, logistics, civil engineering, communications, and force support. Many of the members in these specialties are tasked to be ready to deploy on short notice to points around the globe making the training critical for mission readiness.
"Beyond getting members prepared to deploy, this type of training instills lethality into the force," said Fink. "As a result of this training, the Airman will be ready for whatever the AOR [area of responsibility] requires of them."
The training event, which lasted until Feb. 8, was the first of its kind for the 919th SOW to be specifically targeted at pre-deployers and to take advantage of another wing's resources and capabilities.
"It would have been really difficult to accomplish everything at Duke,” said Gwin. "This exercise was really a force multiplier for us, because we were able to use the resources from the 94th Airlift Wing to augment our own capabilities. The host wing really rolled out the red carpet for us."
The partnership between the two reserve wings ensured this exercise's success. For weapons qualification training alone, the 94th AW supplied all but two of the combat arms instructors, and were responsible for running the qualification courses. Given the demand on weapons ranges locally, this was a huge benefit for the 919 SOW.
Even Col. Frank L. Bradfield, the 919th SOW's commander, was able to witness the exercise's successes first-hand. He surprised the participants by emerging as a CBRN casualty in the middle of a training scenario. Luckily, four Airmen responded and rendered "aid" in a timely and efficient manner, demonstrating their new skills and "saving" their boss.
With the benefits of the FTX evident, the wing leadership now hopes to make it a recurring event for future deployment cycles. The Airmen who planned and participated in this event made clear strides towards being able to execute the wing's mission of providing Citizen Air Commandos anytime, anyplace.