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Unique Exercise Prepares Defenders for Austere Conflict

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Dylan Gentile

Across the country, Reserve Citizen Airmen are constantly sharpening their wartime skills to ensure they are always Ready Now. Citizen Air Commandos from the 919th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron at Duke Field, Florida, for example, recently completed a four-day field training exercise designed to enhance their readiness and ability to apply appropriate force while defending an austere position.

This was the first event of its kind and involved the entire squadron.

The exercise tested skills necessary for fast-paced operations in foreign environments. Airmen constructed deployable tent systems and used a makeshift base as a launching point for the simulated missions. Some of the scenarios included oppositional forces where Airmen were required to gauge appropriate forces and procedures. The scenarios were designed by the 919th SOSFS’s Tech. Sgt. Christina Knepper.

“These scenarios prepare troops for real-life situations,” said Staff Sgt. Dan Ordoqui, 919th SOSFS cadre for the exercise. “It conditions them to perform effectively and appropriately while under stress or duress.”

Airmen performed missions on an impromptu and evolving schedule. They convoyed out to remote locations and performed the assigned and often unfamiliar tasks. One of the missions involved locating and recovering a simulated downed pilot. They navigated through dense underbrush and longleaf pines of the Eglin Range while defending their team from the threat of oppositional forces.

The 919th SOSFS members learned troop leading procedures, movements, how to react to improvised explosive devices, land navigation techniques, personnel recovery and personnel security missions.

Airmen from the 919th Special Operations Communications Squadron assisted with radio communications from a hub tent complex.

“This is a good way to show how communications troops can be successful in the field,” said Tech. Sgt. Zachary Villareal, 919th SOCS expeditionary communication assistant flight lead and exercise participant. “Participating in these kinds of exercises reiterates the importance of tactical communications. We were out here providing radio capability back to headquarters and others in the field.”

The 919th SOCS team’s expertise helped security forces overcome line-of-sight communication barriers.

During the field training exercise, Airmen were divided into teams. Each team had an embedded communications Airmen who acted as a mobile radio specialist. Their role included assembling, deconstructing and transporting antenna systems to ensure clear transmission in the dense forests.

“Having someone on the ground who can use the array of communications equipment will be a major capability in future conflict,” Villarreal said.

The exercise ended in a blitz of gunfire as the team’s camp was overrun by oppositional forces. Students stood their ground and successfully defended their positions.

“Rigorous training is essential to maintain our mission readiness,” Ordoqui said. “We sweat more in times of peace so we can bleed less in times of war.”

(Gentile is assigned to the 919th SOW public affairs office.)