Student Flight Welcomes Training Ops at Camp Edwards
By Maj. David Mendoza, Force Support Squadron Commander , 104 Fighter Wing
/ Published August 01, 2009
BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Massachusetts -- As the rest of the 104 FW was enjoying the month of July without a UTA, Student Flight was charging on! On Friday, July 17th, 39 members of the 104th embarked on a three day excursion to Camp Edwards as part of the Massachusetts Recruit Sustainment Program with the Army National Guard. This total included 12 members who are coded as student leaders (graduates of BMT) along with the Student Flight Commander, Major Dave Mendoza and his staff: Lt Elizabeth Mesecher, Ops Officer, SMSgt Doug Daponde, NCOIC Student Flight, MSgt Fred Fopiano, 1st Sgt, MSgt Mark Gaskalka, Training Instructor and TSgt Justin Rackliffe, Physical Fitness Instructor. The convoy, made up of five government vehicles, packed with personnel, MRE's and luggage, headed out at 1300 hrs with the Massachusetts Military Reservation (MMR) on beautiful Cape Cod as its destination.
Upon arrival at the MMR, the 104th Student Flight quickly integrated with the 102nd Student Flight, and the challenge began. Striving to create an atmosphere that is similar to arriving at Lackland AFB for Basic Training, the Student Flight members were quickly introduced to TSgt Brian Simeone, better known as the MTI. After a shake down of personal gear and a sit down dinner consisting of an MRE, the trainees were given a briefing on the overall Lackland experience by TSgt Simeone. Finally, after five hours of training, and the sun having set an hour before, the members were assigned lodging rooms and dormitory fresh linen was given to each trainee. All trainees were assigned a roommate as the "No One Left Behind Policy" is strictly enforced. Bedtime was a welcome sight for most of the shell shocked, starry eyed student flight members, wondering if this day would ever end.
Saturday began at 0500 with "GET UP, GET OUT of BED" as only an MTI can deliver. This was followed by a run along -side the Army National Guard recruits at 0530. After a hot breakfast, the members went through Call for Fire Training (CFFT). This is similar to our own FATS program administered by security forces. This was followed by Air Force drill and ceremony. The advantage to offering this to the guardsmen is it really gives the Airmen a leg up over their Active Duty and Reserve counterparts when they attend Basic Training, . In the late afternoon, due to inclement weather, the Air and Army National Guard leadership team exercised on the side of caution and cancelled the Leadership Reaction Course. This proved to be an initial disappointment as it was highly anticipated, but the back-up plan of team dodge ball filled in superbly. This proved to be a much needed outlet for Student Flight members of both units to let down their guard a little, and put a smile on their faces. The day ended with a hot dinner in the dining facility, some team building challenges, a Sexual Assault briefing, then a fire drill. Then it was time to put the day's stressors behind and get a good 6 hours of sleep.
Sunday, the final day of training, the student flight hit the ground running, at 5:15 a.m. for PT then a hot breakfast. After, the group was transported to the CFFT building where they put their training to good use. Each member was given time to use the simulator, with weapons of choice and a grenade launcher. The Student Flight final responsibility was to clean up their living areas and turn in their linen and keys. After a final briefing, the 104th Student Flight members and their leaders boarded their vehicles and headed home.
Overall, the weekend was a great success. Student Flight has evolved leaps and bounds over what it once was. Not only are we preparing our members for basic training, but we are showing them that they are part of something a lot bigger than they imagined. With "joint operations" more the norm than the exception, the 104th Student Flight members are getting their first taste of what it means to be a "Total Force."