October 27, 2017 (by MSgt. Kristine Dreyer) - After 26 years of combat operations, the Air Force continues to answer the nation’s call. As adversaries change and evolve, Mobility Airmen not only continue to respond to today’s fight, but also improve readiness for tomorrow’s potential threats.
First Lt. Garrett Iapicco 40th AS co-pilot, conducts a full spectrum readiness sortie on a C-130J while wearing aircrew eye/respiratory protection system (AERPS) gear near Dyess AFB on October 20, 2017. During the sortie, aircrew, maintenance and support personnel worked together to conduct a local training sortie in a simulated high-threat, chemical environment. [USAF photo by MSgt. Kristine Dreyer]
To prepare for tomorrow, the 317th Airlift Wing conducted a full spectrum readiness sortie Oct. 19 and 20, 2017 at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.
During the full spectrum readiness sortie, aircrew, maintenance and support personnel worked together to conduct a local training sortie in a simulated high-threat environment.
“Over the years, our focus has shifted away from readiness,” said Col. David Owens. 317th AW commander. “The pendulum now swings the focus back to honing skills like operating in a chemical environment, flying in GPS-denied airspace and completing scenario-based training preparing us for possible real-world situations.”
Once training gear is procured, Airmen can be trained and better prepared to face the full spectrum of tomorrow's threats.
“It’s been more than a decade since our wing has trained for a chemical environment,” said Owens, “so we need to also procure the training equipment for each individual.”
Full spectrum readiness requires leaders to not only properly equip their Airmen but also ensure they are trained for tomorrow’s fight.
“Our crews are flying all over the world in a variety of situations,” said Lt. Col. Russell Parramore, 40th Airlift Squadron director of operations, “We need to make sure they are trained and ready for anything. In order to ensure they are prepared, we put them in situations where they learn to adapt no matter the scenario.”
The two-day event included simulator missions on the first day and a local training sortie on the second. While flying the sortie, one pilot and one loadmaster from the 40th Airlift Squadron, experienced the challenges of operating in a chemical environment by wearing the aircrew eye/respiratory protection system (AERPS) while performing their duties. The crew chiefs also wore their protective gear while marshalling aircraft and performing maintenance on the aircraft during the event.
“The gloves are my biggest challenge,” said Senior Airman Jack Rohan, 317th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “Fitting into places like the nose gear is more challenging because you get stuck on everything. Holding exercises like these isn’t fun but it’s good to be proficient. None of us want to be in a real world situation like this, but if we practice more often, we will learn how get past those challenges, so it becomes more natural.”
Learning how to work around the challenges of operating in a chemical environment doesn’t start on the flightline. The 317th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment flight works to ensure aircrews are educated on how to properly wear the AERPS gear by holding weekly classes.
“Aircrew are required by [Air Force Instruction] to attend the training every two years,” said Staff Sgt. Faith Rogers, 317th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment. “Because this is becoming a real world issue, we are having classes every Tuesday and require every individual dresses out. We are also typically required to have only a couple people dress out during the class, but we want to make sure they understand how to properly wear the gear and conduct buddy checks.”
Full spectrum readiness doesn’t happen overnight. For the 317th AW, the goal is to work up to a full scale phase two fly away exercise by Spring 2018.
“At the end of the day, this will make us better,” said Owens. “We are not stopping what we normally do here at Dyess. We are still deploying, running channel missions, supporting the Army and Marines. The AMC mission doesn’t stop. It is time for us to become smarter when we prepare for tomorrow’s fight, and we become ready by conducting training missions like these.”