MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina --
When you have to deploy for the sole purpose of training for your deployed mission, you know your job is critical.
The South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Civil Engineer Squadron did just that in a recent trip to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to participate in a Silver Flag exercise Aug.10-18.
Silver Flag is a week-long field exercise that U.S. Air Force civil engineers, firefighters, environmental management and services personnel must achieve every 40 to 45 months. Silver Flag trains these essential members on setting up bare base operations in a deployed contingency environment.
"We don't have the assets and equipment available to receive this type of training at home station," said Capt. Gareth Fleischer, 169th Civil Engineer Squadron Deputy Base Civil Engineer and officer in charge during Silver Flag. "It's important to get off base and train when we can."
The package of 114 Airmen spent a week in classrooms, training and setting up for the final execution day of the exercise. Civil Engineers trained in several areas at Ramstein Air Base, a practice they don't get to engage in during their training at McEntire Joint National Guard Base. They trained in areas that would be critical skills during a deployment. Filling craters, emergency airfield lighting systems, aircraft arresting systems, water purification and distribution and development of the landing strip were just a few of the skills they accomplished.
Swamp Fox firefighters and emergency management also attended Silver Flag. The fire department was able to train in a new environment for aircraft and structural fire response. Emergency management trained for chemical and hazardous material response, developing sectors and executing emergency management procedures.
The week of training and preparations were conducted under the notional mission of building up a bare base, a 150-person encampment for the purpose of bringing in additional forces to fight insurgents.
"We deployed, designed, built and planned base beddown for a 1,500-person refugee camp for anticipated displaced persons affected by anti-insurgent activity that our personnel would be involved in," said Lt. Col. Tim Dotson, commander of the 169th Civil Engineer Squadron and camp commander at Silver Flag.
"This training is always good, realistic and relevant," said Dotson. "The cadre [training commander] keeps the training and scenarios relevant for what a civil engineer's actual deployment would be."
Because the members deployed to Silver Flag for training, they are able to use assets and equipment that aren't available at their home station. This affords them the opportunity to receive expeditionary skills training that would be lost if not received frequently.
The training culminated with a small-scale Operational Readiness Inspection on the final day. The civil engineers started with planning a convoy and logistical movements, and then deployed to the bare base location. They used skills they learned to sweep the area to identify unexploded ordinances and then completed the execution of the beddown plan and airfield recovery.
The Swamp Fox civil engineers had a time limit of one day to accomplish their mission. During this time, they had to respond to simulated missile and small-arms gunfire attacks to show their ability to survive and operate in austere conditions.
"We beat the time by a couple hours. It exposed how prepared we are and how well we work," said Dotson.
Dotson and Fleischer both mentioned the cadre's comment that their class was the best he'd seen this year. Like the inspections and evaluations we're all familiar with, there were superior performers identified for each career field and the cadre awarded over half of them to a Swampfox civil engineer.
"I think they did very well," said Fleischer. "This training and exercise paves the way for a successful Certified Readiness Evaluation for CE."
The Swamp Fox Superior Performers recognized by the Silver Flag cadre are:
Master Sgt. Justin Feeney, Electrical
Staff Sgt. Justin Larson - Engineering, CE Officer Candidate
Senior Airman Barry Ballew - Pavements & Equipment
Senior Airman Benjamin Douglass - Structures
Senior Airman William Dimsdale - Power Production