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Not Your Father's Combat Survival Training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood
  • Public Affairs 179th Airlift Wing
The need for aircrew combat survival refresher training has been around for as long as the AF has been flying aircraft, yet this weekend something noticeably different was happening in the woods of north central Ohio.
"I had the opportunity to hear Secretary James discuss the need to embrace diversity of thought. That encouraged us to look for innovative ways to conduct reoccurring training", said Col Mark "Kahuna" Auer, Commander of the 179th Operations Group. "We knew Battlefield Airmen in Tactical Control Air Party (TACP) units possessed finely honed land navigation, tactical movement and survival skills. And since TACPs attend the same basic survival course as aircrew, we knew they could speak the same language and our aircrew would benefit from their recent ground combat experience. We were all anxious to see what could be achieved by combining Mobility Air Forces (MAF) aircrew and Aircrew Flight Equipment (AFE) personnel with Battlefield Airman from the Combat Air Forces (CAF)", Auer said.
Four TACPs from the 169th ASOS, 182nd AW Peoria, IL combined with seven members of the 179th OSS AFE section to offer Combat Survival Training that was not your usual affair. "Having the TACPs work to enhance our field skill instruction and play the role of aggressors elevated the training to a whole new level", said TSgt William Hamilton, who took lead on organizing the training and whose family hosted the event on their property near Butler, OH. SrA Matthew Denault, a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), was one of the visiting TACPs, "We were impressed right from the start; from the planning and coordination, to the level of engagement by the aircrew. Everyone was committed to making the training as realistic and valuable as possible, plus it was great to train together - we hope to continue the relationship."
The Ohio airmen received valuable training on land navigation; shelter building, fire craft, food and water collection, camouflage and concealment, signaling and evasion techniques. This type of refresher training aims to enhance the survivability and combat readiness of aircrew. Capt Ryan McMaster, an Intelligence Officer with the 179th OSS, who started his career as an AFE technician, said, "I have seen lots of Combat Survival Training in my career and this was as good as anything I have ever seen."
Based on feedback received, the 179th plans to expand the training next year. "We are already looking at how to bring even more assets into the scenarios next year", said MSgt Trevor Shaw of the 179th OSS. Coming from the birth place of aviation, no one should be surprised if further innovation is just around the corner.