5th CCG practices convoy skills Published Nov. 6, 2009 By Wayne Crenshaw 78 ABW/PA ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- In early 2004 Col. Amando Gavino headed out of Camp Victory in Bagdad in a four-vehicle convoy. They were on a short trip to the airport, but before they arrived he heard the front gunner yell out "RPG 3 o'clock!" He pulled out his 9 mm and started firing its 15-round clip. "It felt like about three or four seconds I was shooting, and I was out," he said. "And the Army guys were yelling commands I wasn't very familiar with." The convoy survived the attack, but his reaction did not sit well with him. "I said to myself, 'Never again,'" he recalled. "If there is arms training, I'm in." Today he is vice commander of the newly stood-up 689th Combat Communications Wing at Robins. He is plenty busy with that job, but even so he is taking time out to complete the 3-week combat skills training course that the 5th Combat Communications Group gives to deploying Airmen. In convoy training last week, Gavino was perched on the back of a truck just like the 48 Airmen in the course. The convoy was parked in a protective box formation and Gavino kept his eyes trained ahead for any 'insurgents' that might be about to attack. The convoy, made up of six big trucks and a vehicle that carried the convoy commander, was practicing "contact left" and "contact right" drills. They would leave the formation and drive through a short course where they would come under fire by insurgents and would have to return fire. The objective was to keep moving and get through the danger area as quickly as possible. Gavino said he found it to be good training, and he was impressed with the knowledge of the trainers. "Even though I'm busy in the office, I told the guys I don't want to be pulled out," he said. "I want to finish this training." Flight Lieutenant Paul Jennings of the British Royal Air Force is commander of the 5th CCG's training school. He is also an Iraq veteran who has come under fire while in a convoy. Convoy training is one of the most important parts of the course, he said. In addition to learning what to do in certain situations, he said, it's also important for the troops to hear the gunfire and explosions that are used as part of the training. "All the sounds and the explosions and things that you hear, if you haven't had this kind of experience, you will panic," Jennings said. "It gives you a sense of what it is like even though it is not real." Tech Sgt. Harry Gregory, non-commissioned officer in charge of the school and veteran of several deployments, gave a succinct answer when asked how important convoy training is to troops. "It's as important as your life is to you," he said, noting that in the news that very day was a report about eight Soldiers lost to coordinated attacks on convoys. "You never know what you may encounter on the road and doing battle drills is very important so that it becomes muscle memory."