Mildenhall Security Forces Receive Realistic Deployment Training
By Karen Abeyasekere
Special to American Forces Press Service
ROYAL AIR FORCE STATION MILDENHALL, United Kingdom, Apr. 4, 2005 Crawling around the wet grass in England may not, at first glance, compare much to being "downrange" in hostile territory. But for 13 members of the 100th Security Forces Squadron here, it felt pretty real.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Cole, front, 100th Security Forces Squadron Bravo Flight, and fellow 100th SFS members set up short-haul security around a halted convoy during training in March. Short-haul security is when one vehicle stops for three to 10 minutes to set up security around the convoy; long-haul security is when everyone, from all vehicles, gets out and sets up security for 10 minutes or more. Photo by Karen Abeyasekere
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Spending 12 to 15 hours each day at the training complex here March 21 to 25, the airmen rode around in Humvees with their faces covered in camouflage makeup, confronted ambushes and dealt with improvised explosive devices.
Though the drizzly weather here might be different here from the weather in Iraq, the combat-readiness skills they were learning are as close as possible to those used downrange, said Senior Airman Robert Horton, a member of the 100th SFS who spent six months in Iraq in 2004.
"This training is very accurate to what I've experienced downrange. Being out here (at the Mildenhall training complex) is a good training tool, and has definitely improved my skills," he said. "It definitely gets you in the mindset you need when you're about to deploy."
The combat readiness force training is a five-day course held two weeks each month. It was developed by the squadron two years ago to support the 123 hours required to meet annual training standards. According to Air Force Instruction 36-2225, Security Forces Training and Standardization Evaluation, all SFS members are required to have 123 hours of training in ground combat skills.
"We provide localized training, and we're the only unit in (U.S. Air Forces in Europe) to have its own combat readiness force instructors," said Senior Airman Dustin Goodwin, one of two training instructors for the course.
There are different levels of training, including Creek Defender at Sembach Air Base, Germany, and Level 2 training in the United States. The Mildenhall training complex is a great asset to the squadron's training, and also saves money, said Goodwin. The instructors teach ground combat skills by using their own experiences in a combat theater and attending a weeklong "train-the-trainer" class at Sembach.
"Downrange, the terrain is different, but we teach these guys as though they're going to the desert," said Senior Airman Russell Whitmore, Combat Readiness Force training instructor. "We set up scenarios and teach them how to react when they're being attacked or see explosive devices. We train like we fight and fight like we train -- aggressively, but safely.
"We want to bring as many troops as we can back home, but we also have to ensure the mission gets done," Whitmore said.
The weeklong training also includes nighttime patrols, use of night-vision goggles, and a reconnaissance patrol, during which the troops have to go outside friendly lines to get information and bring it back to higher headquarters.
"Folks who've been downrange give us critiques and feedback on the training we've given them and how they implemented it there," Goodwin said. "Their information means we can change our training as necessary, so folks deploying in the future get the 'real deal' guidance they need. (People) who've deployed to Iraq before often say how realistic our training is."
The entire squadron, from the airmen right up to the commander, realizes how important this training is to those deploying. "I'm not going to send these (airmen) downrange without the best weapons and the best training," said Lt. Col. Paul Harris, 100th SFS commander. "This training helps build my confidence level, knowing my people are prepared for all eventualities."
(Karen Abeyasekere is assigned to 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs.)