Exercise, Exercise, Exercise: Airmen hone wartime readiness skills

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jessica Kendziorek
  • 403rd Wing Public Affairs

The word “Exercise”, repeated multiple times, echoed throughout the base here Saturday during the 403rd Wing’s November Unit Training Assembly.

Members from across the 403rd Wing participated in an exercise to test each unit’s wartime mission capability and readiness with an emphasis on the Airman’s Ability to Survive and Operate.

“The ATSO exercise was designed to assess and report our ability to meet the mission directives,” said Capt. April Martin, acting 403rd Wing Inspector General inspector.  “This exercise also tested the unit’s attack recovery and communication capabilities before, during and after an attack, whether during a conventional or chemical attack.”

The squadrons were required to complete different tasks during the exercise.

“This inspection, while already difficult, included another element to increase the stress level of the Airmen,” said Maj. Joseph Terry, joint mobility officer from U.S. Transportation Command out of Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. “The members performed all of their duties while wearing the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives gear, or chemical warfare suit.”

The CBRNE suit consists of a thick uniform with pants and a jacket, rubber boots, rubber gloves, and a gas mask, which is worn over the top of the uniform. Donning this suit requires the assistance of a buddy to make sure that everything is on correctly, because if worn improperly it could result in major injury or even death if chemical, radiological or biological agents leak through during a real-world attack.

During the exercise, 403rd Security Forces Squadron members were tasked with handling a direct attack, simulated mortar attacks and area security, while the 403rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron was tasked with handling medical emergencies by retrieving simulated “injured” and “deceased” Airmen from the field.

“It was absolutely helpful to evaluate our training needs,” said Master Sgt. Lucas Applewhite, 403rd Security Forces Squadron action officer.  “We've done similar exercises at the unit level for the last several years as part of our unit commander's self-inspection program, but it was very beneficial to incorporate a CBRN scenario, and the rest of the wing.” 

The chaplains’ office was called in to help Airmen dealing with trauma from the mortar attack, and mortuary affairs from the 403rd Force Support Squadron retrieved a 403rd SFS simulated casualty of war. Meanwhile, 403rd Logistics Readiness Squadron members moved a cargo pallet that had to be loaded onto a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft by the 41st Aerial Port Squadron.

ASTS members also moved the “injured” Airman to the flight line for evacuation and treatment by 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron personnel, which transported him out of the simulated war zone on the WC-130J Super Hercules aircraft flown by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron.

“I saw a lot of active participation from the Airmen,” said Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Mayfield, 403rd Inspector General inspector superintendent. “They worked together using the buddy system while donning the CBRNE suit and showed a lot of teamwork during the inspection process.”

Col. Jennie R. Johnson, 403rd Wing commander, said that these exercises are used to ensure that 403rd Wing Airmen maintain the highest levels of proficiency and readiness in order to respond to our nation’s call.

“The exercise was an overall success, as both a team building event and for inspection purposes,” said Johnson. “Our inspection team planned a comprehensive exercise that helped to assess and improve our ability to operate, while setting a higher standard for our Airmen.”