WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
Members of the 445th Airlift Wing Operations Group performed their annual training at Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego, California Jan. 18-27, 2019. The training included water survival, Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Evasion, and low altitude flying.
“We accomplished 400 different training tasks for 118 participants. The group also conducted nine flight evaluations all the while utilizing our existing training budget and our allotted training hours for flying,” said Lt. Col. Malcom Quincy, 89th Airlift Squadron director of operations.
“They [Naval personnel] were able to provide us on-base lodging, the facilities needed to accomplish our training and a realistic stage for our combat survival training in both water and land,” said Quincy.
One of the most anticipated training elements was the combat survival training in the rugged terrain at the nearby training base. The dry heat and rugged hilltops provided an environment unlike Ohio’s.
“It mimics some of the areas we are right now in Afghanistan and the Middle East with the high desert environment, said Tech. Sgt. Zach Angel, SERE specialist, 910th Airlift Wing, Youngstown, Ohio. “They picked this area because it has an environment our members in Ohio do not have access to.”
Angel described the training as good overall. The refresher training hones the skills they’ve learned and is good information to keep. He says he hopes the Airmen are never in a situation where they have to use it but in reality sometimes stuff happens and they need to be refreshed in all of the information.
The combat survival refresher training includes navigation, radio and recovery in a combat environment.
“After initial training, this refresher prepares them for global survival in any type of environment. If they should happen to go down in another unfriendly country, they can recover,” said Angel.
Along with navigating themselves discreetly, the Airmen also had to avoid those playing the role of enemy combatants looking for them.
“This kind of training is definitely well worth it. You never know by off chance that you’ll be in enemy territory having to evade for your life,” said Senior Airman Dominic Slonkosky, 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. “It sets a picture for how challenging it would really be in the given situation.”
Remaining positive the entire time was a challenge, according to Slonkosky. He said it would be hard to be in that mental state when on the run in the heat and not knowing about the next meal while potentially running away from the enemy.
The Airmen also participated in water survival training to prepare for the worst-case scenario of surviving a downed aircraft in open water.
“It’s a reminder to put the life jackets on, board the life raft, and use all of the accessories in the life raft that aren’t seen all of the time,” said Airman 1st Class Nathan Pritchard, 445th Operations Support Squadron SERE specialist.
“It’s good to get in the water to remember how it feels to swim with the life preserver on. It’s a lot more difficult than you think it is until you’re in the moment of actually doing it. We had harness drags, training with the water exposure suits, canopy training in the water to avoid drowning underneath, and the life raft,” he added.
The group covered life raft living which includes satisfying your five basic needs: health, personal protection, sustenance, communication and travel. There is not anything like this facility at Wright-Patt, said Pritchard.
While conducting annual training in California, 445th Airmen were able to provide immediate helicopter training to the local Navy unit on the C-17.
They practiced loading and off-loading to improve procedures and enhance training. Each load has its own characteristics and continuous practice makes loadmasters and the cargo owners more proficient.
Overall, the training tour was a success.
“I think it went very well. The amount of training accomplished in a fresh-new environment, building comradery, and bringing Airmen together for an extended period of time really enhanced our esprit de corps as well as morale,” said Quincy. “We did a phenomenal job with the training and got a lot done. We were able to conduct air refueling on every scheduled mission. I was very pleased.”