ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE --
The 12th Airborne Command and Control Squadron – alongside the 16th ACCS and the 128th ACCS – completed a Phase II deployment readiness exercise on Jan. 31 which focused on developing warfighting capabilities of combat mission ready aircrews.
Prior to the Phase II exercise, the squadron practiced Phase I readiness and recall events with two full crews and staff. Each airman completed the necessary readiness checklist items and verified uniforms and personal items which are needed to deploy.
The end of Phase I was marked by the crews processing a simulated deployment line.
Phase II elevated the exercise with hands-on training, spanning four squadrons with more than 100 participants. The 12th ACCS began Phase II at Aircrew Flight Equipment where they were issued and trained on 11 different items, including the MBU-13/P mask, HGU-41/HOOD, over-cape and over-boots – all of which are protective equipment necessary to survive in a chemical warfare environment.
With the training equipment donned, the combat-ready crew was transported to an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS, aircraft. Once at the aircraft, additional AFE personnel removed and disposed of equipment that had simulated chemical exposure, allowing the crew to practice entering and operating the aircraft under non-standard conditions.
Finally, the crew was shuttled to an additional training area where they processed through a nine-station decontamination and processing line that ensures Airmen are properly cleaned, decontaminated and have all protective gear safely removed.
In a real-world scenario, this process would likely take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes per crewmember.
As the 12th ACCS finished up their training, the 128th ACCS, belonging to the Georgia Air National Guard, began their iteration of the exercise. Shortly after, the other active duty JSTARS squadron, the 16th ACCS, followed suit and finished their portion of the exercise after roughly three hours of combined live training.
Overall, the 12th ACCS Dragons embraced the exercise, recognizing the valuable training and relationships with other units.
“It’s good to have hands-on experience with this equipment,” 1st Lt. Michael Mendoza, an Air Battle Manager, said.
Mendoza explained that running through the motions of donning gear, going through the line, and working with AFE personnel, mentally prepares aircrews for a worst-case scenario.
“As aircrew, we want to be able to don our equipment properly, and then also focus on completing the mission,” he added. “Training like this, just makes the real thing that much easier to tackle.”
Senior Airman John Whistler, an Airborne Radar Technician, agreed, highlighting the AFE personnel who walked the inexperienced aircrew through the difficult donning procedures.
“The cadre were efficient and professional throughout the entire process,” he said, “without them, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
The exercise reflected the 12th ACCS Dragon’s pursuit of a more effective way to prepare and train for the demands the nation places upon its military.
Lt. Col. Nelson Rouleau, 12th ACCS commander, placed training as the No. 1 priority of his 2018 Command Plan, in line with Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein’s direction that, “high end training against the most difficult threat in the most difficult environment is nothing short of a moral obligation.”
Training, Relationships, Imagination, and Resiliency form the four Flight Paths of that Command Plan which guides the 12th ACCS and each of its members towards a new and better way of warfighting.
Drawing upon that foundation, it took the combined effort and close relationships between Aircraft Maintenance, Aircrew Flight Equipment, and all three flying squadrons to provide the personnel, expertise, and dedication to successfully conduct the exercise.
The unique opportunity gave invaluable hands-on training with protective aircrew gear, in an environment seldom available to these airmen, while also demonstrating the ability to conduct survivable operations if required to overcome an attack.