By Lt. Col. Allen Stewart, 169th Logistics Readiness Squadron
/ Published October 30, 2012
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- By the time you read this I will have been at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, for a couple months. But to get here I had to go through a twelve day course called "Combat Arms Skills Training" (CAST) at Camp Anderson-Peters inside of Camp Bulles in San Antonio, Texas. The camp is Tier 3 pre-deployment training and dedicated to Airman 1st Class Carl L. Anderson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Peters. Both were killed by IED's during convoy operations.
The course description is, "All students (Officer, Enlisted, and Civilian) will be placed in strenuous training scenarios used to teach skills in weapons firing, communications, mounted and dismounted individual and team movements, and map/compass/GPS navigation. Students must be highly motivated and both mentally and physically prepared to perform rigorous combat scenario-based tasks."
Some other requirements are to be able to wear Individual Combat Equipment (ICE) weighing 36 pounds. Students have to carry an M-16 or M4, and an M9 (holstered). As well, carry ammo for both weapons and Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK). Pre-deployment planning for CAST is a task in itself! It includes Tier 2A and 2B training. This includes M-16/M9 qualification, lots of CBT's, immunizations, and Ancillary Training.
Once you arrive to Camp Anderson-Peters you realize very quickly you are not at a USAF base! We were the first group out of ninety eight personnel to arrive. We were issued our gear. Then we had to take it all to our tents. The tents house eight personnel. Amazingly, the tents did have air conditioning. Once we got settled in we had to clean weapons. Also, since we were first to get there, we had dinner detail. Food was brought in from Lackland, AFB, for breakfast and dinner each day. MRE's for lunch!
The first day of class was death by Power Point! It included Active Shooter, Marksmanship, Equipment (how to release your vest and put it back together), and "Humvee-rollover training". The next day is when the fun began. We were split in two groups, so half of us went to fire while the other half went to Humvee-rollover training. Now, remember, while doing both of these training events you are wearing thirty six pounds, or more, of ICE in 95 to 100 degree heat. The sounding call during training was, "hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate!"
The M9 firing was fine. From there we went to Humvee-rollover training. They give you an initial idea of what a twenty five and thirty degree roll feels like and then a 180 eighty degree experience. Trust me, upside down in all that gear, hanging by your seatbelt, is not fun! You then get several spins, stop upside down, and have to get yourselves out, without breaking you neck. The next is on your side as an underwater simulation. We performed "Counter IED" training the rest of the day.
The next day we took a walk through the woods and down a road about 1,000 meters, looking for IED's! We then went back to class for "Tactical Casualty Combat Care" (TCCC) and Basic Communications, both while under fire. Basic Communications was geared around calling in 9-Line reports for IED's and casualties and SALUTE reports.
The next day was the "Box of Death"! As hard as it was, it was kind of fun. We had fire squads and injured personnel out in the field. We had to lay down suppressive fire at the Box of Death while a couple of personnel went out and dragged the wounded airmen back to cover to perform TCCC. The instructors fired paint guns out of the Box of Death and we returned fire with what looked like, and sounded like, an M-16 round but had no more impact than a BB gun.
The next day was "Land Navigation" and "Mounted Operations" training. We had to use compasses and maps to find our way through the woods. That afternoon, we rode around in Humvees learning defensive tactics during convoy operations. We had to learn what to do when a vehicle was taken out by an IED, how to recover the wounded (TCCC), call in 9-Line IED and casualty reports, lay down suppressive fire, and get out of there as quickly as possible. The following day was M-16 firing and we fired 180 rounds in standing, kneeling, "weak hand" and prone positions.
Sunday was a day off! Monday we actually went out and got hit with IED's and attacked while performing TCCC, 9-Line reports and suppressing enemy fire. Tuesday consisted of "Urban Tactics" and later was Small Unit Tactics (SMUT) training. It took about a month to get rid of the Poison Ivy! Wednesday was the field training exercise where all that we have learned came together for a three hour finale with lots of intense scenarios!
It was tough training. I ate as much as I could and still lost 6 pounds in twelve days. We came in every day soaked in sweat from head to toe. But, we learned a lot. And, a shout out to the CADRE at Camp Anderson-Peters! What a great bunch of guys. So, if you ever have to go to CAST make sure you are mentally and physically prepared for some very rigorous training. It can't give you the reality of battle, but it gives you a glimpse into the "Fog of war". I'll see y'all in January!