Pre-deployment skills training exercise

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Airmen from the 729th Air Control Squadron here recently completed training designed to better prepare them for combat situations. 

Deployments to an (AOR) Area of Responsibility, or combat zone, are a regular occurrence for most Airmen and a routine part of active duty military life. However, depending on the location, some areas are more dangerous than others, with each geographic location providing its own unique set of hazards and threats.

In preparation for upcoming deployments, Lt. Col. Johnny McGonigal, 729th ACS commander, identified possible unique down range hazards outside of his Airmen’s normal knowledge and skill set. A training exercise was then organized locally to give the Airmen current and specific skills curtailed to their deployment location.

 “As a combat-coded CRC, or Control and Reporting Center, we need to be prepared to deploy and operate anywhere in the world with minimal warning,” McGonigal said. “Currently, many of our Airmen deploy to austere locations that are very close to the fight but not to locations that warrant AF-sponsored training. We developed this in-house program to ensure our deploying Airmen have the basic skills they need to defend themselves and operate effectively under fire if needed.” 

The scope of this year’s pre-deployment skills training exercise was comprehensive. It covered personal preparation, site preparation and defense, weapons familiarization, self-defense, care-under-fire, Improvised Explosive Device classification, and communications. Taking place on the base’s ‘North 40’ training area, the four-day exercise ran Feb. 21-24 and consisted of briefings, demonstrations and combat-scenario training given by local personnel from 729th ACS Plans & Programs, 75th Security Forces Squadron and the 775th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight. 

One of the unit’s Airmen, Staff Sgt. Joseph James, enjoyed the training and now has a better understanding of defensive site preparation and defense. 

“We learned a greater situational awareness through simulated combat firefight scenarios and how to counteract to the best of our abilities,” James said. “The site defense, with (opposition forces) out there providing resistance, has been my favorite part of this exercise.”

The 729th ACS is considered a tactical unit, but some of the squadron’s personnel may be in a support function and not a tactical role as part of their primary duty. This locally organized training fills the gap in deployment readiness for these Airmen and gives them the additional skills needed to be active and competent members of their unit in a deployed combat environment.

Senior Master Sgt. Miguel Diaz has been through the 729th ACS ‘Dirt School’ before, but this training curriculum has been expanded and was somewhat different than those of the past.

“This time they have given us a lot more opportunity to learn and practice small unit tactics, which is pretty good,” Diaz said. “Even though our unit is a tactical unit, many of our Airmen are communication troops and support guys, so this is not their primary duty. This is great to expose them to these kind of scenarios and training.”