Expeditionary Combat Skills Training gives Airmen tools to succeed, survive Published June 22, 2007 By Holly L. Birchfield 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Robins AFB, Ga. -- Dodging smoke grenades, crawling through muddy ditches and riding in a convoy while being fired upon with blank ammunition - it's not a bad dream. It's just a handful of the things Airmen in Expeditionary Combat Skills Training must endure to be ready to fight in deployed locations. Staff Sgt. Genis Membrila, an instructor in the 78th Security Forces Squadron, said more than 300 Airmen have come through the physically and mentally demanding course since its inception in late 2005. All Airmen deploying to combat zones like Iraq and Afghanistan who won't receive en route training must undergo a day and a half of classroom instruction in Bldg. 127 and a day and a half of training in realistic war zone simulations carried out at Warrior Air Base, Robins' mock version of a deployed environment. Airmen must attend the three-day training every 20 months to keep combat survival skills sharp, said Sheree Evans, Readiness Flight deputy chief in the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron. Mrs. Evans said Airmen are scheduled for the training by the installation deployment officer. "All of the taskings come into our office and we will schedule people based on their required in-place date and whether they're going to en route training or not," she said. "We will prioritize those people and get them in." Mrs. Evans said classes are already set up for the rest of the calendar year so those deploying can more easily be scheduled when the need arises. Currently, four classes are set up for the rest of calendar year 2007. Unit deployment managers use the Training and Scheduling System to fill unit training quotas and notify Airmen of their ECST class dates. The TSS will notify Airmen and their supervisors of the requirement, as well as send an e-mail reminder one day prior to the class start date. If an Airman fails to attend the class as scheduled, a "no show" notification will automatically be sent to the Airman's supervisor. Upon completion of the course, Airmen will receive a system-generated certificate of completion. Sergeant Membrila said the average class size can range from 30 to 100 Airmen. The training is among 10 types of training Airmen must have locally before deploying to combat zones, according to a recent tasking from Air Force headquarters, Mrs. Evans said. Mrs. Evans said the course was recently cut from four days to three to keep the flow of Airmen coming through fluid, while keeping the necessary level of course material in tact. Sergeant Membrila said both the 78th Air Base Wing and the 78th Mission Support Group has ensured all safety precautions are taken and fully gotten on board with the training, which involves bringing in an OH-58 helicopter to simulate a rescue mission normally carried out using the U.S. Army Reserves' MEDEVAC Huey. The instructor said the training prepares Airmen to get from point A to point B safely in other ways too. "We do the convoy training out there (at Warrior Air Base) as well," she said. "We have blank ammunition and we have people come attack them. We set up scenarios to see how they're going to act or react to being fired upon or having an IED (improvised explosive device) explode." The training scenarios are lifelike, with a public address system projecting sounds of heavy artillery and rocket propelled grenades exploding in the background as realistic events unfold, Sergeant Membrila said. "We fill the ditches with water and they're all muddy and they have to crawl through them with their weapons, so they're getting soaked," she said. "They have this obstacle course they have to crawl over, go around and come through. They also have to deal with the fact it's so loud out there with the gunfire going off (and) they can't hear each other to give their commands. So, they have to learn to focus, communicate and work as a team to get through all of the obstacles together." As with sister services like the U.S. Army, so many Airmen are going beyond the lines of their normal job duties in the deployed location. Sergeant Membrila said the training helps equip them to do that. What to know Robins is in need of augmentee instructors for the Expeditionary Combat Skills Training. For more information on how to volunteer, call Staff Sgt. Genis Membrila at 222-4940.