By Tech. Sgt. Melanie J. Casineau, 104th Fighter Wing, Public Affairs
/ Published May 25, 2015
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- More than 150 Airmen, 90 percent of which were guardsmen, contributed to the most successful bare-base deployment training course in seven years.
Approximately 25 members from the Force Support and Civil Engineer Squadrons, 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield, Massachusetts, participated in Exercise Silver Flag May 10-17 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, learning combat support training that will prepare them if they go to war.
Silver Flag is a U.S. Air Force training course designed to educate Airman with valuable skills, allowing them to know how to deploy using real-world equipment in real-world scenarios. The extensive two-phase expeditionary course consisted of classroom instruction combined with hands-on training, and ended with a two days of exercises in the field, testing their skills in combat scenarios.
"Members who participate in Silver Flag will bring to the fight the ability to go down range and set up from bare-base to sustainment," said Staff Sgt. Terry Cooper, a services training instructor for Silver Flag.
Members of the 104th FW proved their combat readiness throughout the week and during the final field training exercise May 16-17.
"Seeing an incident go from start to finish and seeing the big picture of everyone working their part was very helpful," said an Airman from the 104th Emergency Management Flight.
During the final exercise, the services members were able to serve both lunch and dinner from their single pallet expeditionary kitchen (SPEK), something that hadn't been done before, said the superintendent of sustainment services, 104th Services Flight.
"Emergency management had every scenario taken care of without any issues," said the 104th Force Support Squadron commander, "You really can't get much better than that."
Airmen from the 104th Military Personnel Flight maintained accountability and provided casualty and personnel program support during the exercise war-time scenario.
"It's clear from their performance that they are masters in their craft," the 104th FSS commander said. "They met all their timelines and suspenses and got everything done. They are also showing their willingness to learn new things."
Many of the Airmen from the 104th had never experienced a Silver Flag exercise before. The Silver Flag training, which is required before deploying, is very detailed. It allows Airmen more opportunities to learn very specific skills needed in combat situations.
"Training is important because we don't actually get to do this on a regular basis," the superintendent of sustainment services said. "I think the training that they provided the week prior to going into Silver Flag was very valuable. The Cadre were very knowledgeable, and they were easy to talk to. I like the way they've instructed."
Services learned about recreation, mortuary, fitness, and food.
Services members need to know all the areas of the career field, not just their specific job, so they can augment each other, said the 104th Services Flight noncommissioned officer in charge.
During the week, services members had the opportunity to do both a full search and recovery and an expedited one, simulating being in a hostile environment.
"I've never done an expedient search and rescue," said the 104th Fatality Search and Recovery Team, non-commissioned officer in charge. "I've learned about it, but this was the first time actually participating in one which was helpful."
The personnel members learned how to act as personnel for contingency operations (PERSCO), applying their home-station duties to a deployed environment.
"It's good to go out and see what is being taught to other personnel units," said the 104th Manpower and Personnel Flight superintendant. "I have not deployed recently, so my experience may not be what they are teaching currently."
Emergency Management worked mainly on the response side of their job instead of preparation or recovery. They responded to incidents and used their equipment to clear rooms, take samples, and identify chemicals. Other training included how to do vulnerability assessments, and mapping and plotting for chemical and hazmat response.
"We have gotten away from the old war-time training and focused on the new, modern thinking of hazard materials," said an Airman from EM. "At home we have First Defender RMX equipment that I have not used before; here I was able to use it."
They were not only learning about job skills but how to communicate with new people from different careers in the Air Force.
Working with other bases helps you feed off of each other's knowledge and areas of expertise, and you learn how to blend them together when you deploy, said the 104th Services Flight NCOIC.
"I think that's the biggest part that I am taking from this is now you're working with not only other bases but you're working with other sections as well," the 104th Services Flight NCOIC added in regards to working with Civil Engineering.
Throughout the week, the members continued to be excited about the opportunity to be at Silver Flag.
"I am excited to be here and to work together a team," said an Airman from the 104th Services Flight. "We have learned that communication is key to getting things done."
"Focus on communication and collaboration is emphasized over and over," the 104th FSS commander said. "With Services and Civil Engineering not being in the same squadron, it is important for us to speak the same language and understand where both of us can help each other and rely on each other."
When Silver Flag ended, the cadre extended the invitation for the 104th members to come out and augment them any time, he added.
Overall the week was a success and proved to be valuable to everyone who participated. The skills learned and tested at Silver Flag prepare the 104th members for future deployments and the ability to support a wide range of operations, right alongside our active duty counterparts.