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Airmen prepare to deploy: Pope’s deployment tempo ranks among highest Air Force wide

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Cammie Quinn
  • 43rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
SALUTE calls and conversations via hand-held radios were the predominant means of communication Oct. 15 at the training course which prepared Airmen for deployments.
Pope has one of the highest deployment numbers according to base populace, Air Force wide. said Master Sgt. Harold Stanberry, 440th Security Forces Squadron.
Any member going on a deployment will attend this training, regardless of their final destination. "Even someone going to Tampa, Fla. will attend training, in fact, we have a major in training to go to Brazil," Sergeant Stanberry said. "Most locations have the potential for the Airman to forward deploy to the Area of Responsibility." 

The Expeditionary Combat Skills Training program prompts servicemembers to re-think how they view their roles within the Air Force. The program takes Airmen from their typical job duties and places them in a hostile environment, where they are forced to provide security for their team. During the two-day course, students are taught basic combat skills, regardless of Air Force Specialty Code, before they deploy. 

The training divides the group into four- person fire teams, and each member then performs a patrol of the scene. Each team goes into the defensive fighting position, protecting themselves from an encroaching attack team. The students must then defend their own DFPs while calling back to their team lead with the proper SALUTE report.
Airmen from Pope volunteered to act as opposing forces and ran out of the woodline to simulate an attack strike on the students. "We're doing what all the (Computer Based Training) can't - you're not going to learn until you try the tactics on an actual person," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Gagin, 43rd Communications Squadron. 

Staff Sgt. John Pickard, also from the 43rd CS, said that he tries to "display to (the students) something out of character - we're going to tug at their heartstrings." Both sergeants acted as members of the opposing force. 

Through the course, students learn to remove themselves from their normal role in the Air Force and instead focus on one common goal - base security. While deployed, it is imperative for all Airmen to understand the basics of base defense, even in the most austere environments. 

The majority of Airmen don't realize that "life extends beyond their Air Force Specialty Code, moreover, their mindset should be more of a warrior ethos rather than their individual efforts," Sergeant Stanberry said. "When push comes to shove, protection of resources and personnel are the main priority at any base." 

Sergeant Stanberry and his fellow instructors emphasize the importance of understanding use of force while engaged in an aggressive situation. Anyone can use a weapon, but when to use it becomes the difficult decision. "It takes milliseconds to make a life or death decision - everyone else has an eternity to decide whether it was the right one," Sergeant Stanberry said. By becoming familiar with weapons and articulating directions, students become comfortable and less hesitant to act. 

While deployed Airmen have to solve a problem on their feet. During the course, they gain confidence using even the most basic formations and commands, said Senior Master Sgt. Dennis Ramsdell, 43rd Operations Support Squadron. "We want our Airmen to be assets, not liabilities." 

Maj. Heleno Souza, 440th Medical Squadron, a self-proclaimed wound healer, not a wound maker, values the training, saying, "We learn enough to protect ourselves and our troops and gain an appreciation of what they're doing up front." He said Airmen will always feel fear whenever they go somewhere new, but the only way to overcome that fear is with experience and practice. 

It is via this course that Airmen are given the chance to face a realistic deployed environment under attack. Ultimately, it is through this course they are able to overcome fears of failure and the unknown in order to protect themselves, their teammates and base resources.