Exercise Exercise Exercise: Day 6/7
All of our classroom training culminated into this one-day event…THE EXERCISE.
The tent came alive at 0500! The sounds of 10 men rustling around and donning battle rattle is every bit as exciting as it is nerve racking. While this was not an actual war the scenario was very much war like. The role of the course cadre was to watch and evaluate every move we made.
After leaving the tent, we had to meet up at the in-processing center to ensure everyone was accounted for; this is where received our final mission brief before going into battle. The Air Force tries to save resources where possible, so leaving our tents was like getting off a helicopter. In previous years, we had to convoy in/out of the area – this was costly when using armored personnel carriers. Once the mission brief was over and we exited the facility it was game on.
We begin our convoy over – walking – to the Manpower Office. To make our journey easier, we had prepositioned our equipment to be brought over a little after we arrived. This equipment included two laptops, and various office supplies necessary to complete the mission. Upon arrival, we started to set up our office. The office space was approximately 12 x 20 with two computers connected to the LAN. The first task (before setting up the coffee maker) was to send higher headquarters (HHQ) a memo stating that we had arrived and were ready to begin our assignment.
The exercise injects (taskings) started to flow in as soon as the activation memo was released. They seemed to never stop. We generally had about 90 minutes to analyze, coordinate, and justify each inject. The idea behind the injects was to build off of our classroom training. They were more in depth and required some thoughtful analysis.
After about eight hours of doing nonstop work, we heard over the radio that the dining facility was operational. So, it was time for the lunch! Luckily this was in walking distance. Every time we ventured outside, we had to use the wingman concept (go in pairs). For lunch, we had the option of spaghetti, green beans, and pears. You either ate that or another MRE, needless to say I was eating spaghetti.
Upon returning from lunch, we had more of the same…injects…injects…injects. This repetition went on until about 7:30 pm. Our team worked well together – accomplishing 17 different injects – we had never met or spoken to one another until the first day of class. Knowing the exercise was nearing the final hours; we decided to start prepping for our departure.
Life was almost back to normal around 9 pm, so our instructor took us over to the fire department training grounds where they had mock aircraft parts. This is where they practiced all week on their crash recovery skills and how to extinguish a fire on a crashed plane. The section we where interested in was the mock C-130 crash. The entire area erupted into a giant fireball once the 250 gallons of JP-8 were lit. The fire department had this fire out in about 90 seconds. They used their massive state of the art vehicles and drove in a circular pattern spraying foam on the flames.
The exercise concluded around 9:30 pm, and then it was a race (not literally) to return our weapons and remove all of our gear (helmet, load-bearing belts, and canteen). Trying to wind down after spending an entire day on the go proved to be difficult – both body and mind were tired, but falling asleep did not work out so well.
|Amazing Manpower Cadre||Meal Ready to Eat (MRE)|
|Opportunity to practice wartime skills||Sleeping on cots|
|Exercise facilities||TOO much sodium from MREs|
|Fostered team building||Mold in the shower areas|
|Not sure if feedback provided will be valued|
|Communication was not always clear|
The last day of training was geared towards reconstitution (cleaning up the training areas, classroom, and tent city) then the exercise feedback. Graduation was short and sweet! Then it was off to the airport and back to civilization.
Overall, this was a decent training experience. Our team worked well together even though we all had completely different backgrounds. I will not miss sleeping in a tent with nine other dudes, and picking through a box of MREs to determine lunch/dinner.
Life gives us many paths to choose, and hopefully with the right amount of knowledge we can select the one that provides the best outcome. My focus hobby may center on running, but running is what keeps me focused on both my professional and personal life.