Tuesday, September 25, 2007

After one year, Phoenix Warrior course soaring high

by Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs

A student in the Air Force Phoenix Warrior Training Course 07-6 participates in convoy training Aug. 21 on a range at Fort Dix, N.J. The course is taught by the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's 421st Combat Training Squadron where Air Force security forces Airmen practice expeditionary combat skills. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

FORT DIX, N.J. (AFPN) -- Airmen at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's 421st Combat Training Squadron have finished their first year of teaching the Phoenix Warrior Training Course, and all signs point to the fact it is helping prepare security forces for their wartime mission.

"Phoenix Warrior, from inception, has evolved to meet our adversaries' shifting tactics," said Capt. Brent Gallant, operations flight commander for the 421st CTS. "By providing the most current tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs, used in the deployed environment, as well as using the most advanced training aids available such as the center's state-of-the-art close-quarters battle camera system, we provide security forces pre-deployment training that is second to none."

Phoenix Warrior is essentially "combat skills training" mainly for security forces, Captain Gallant said. It is different from the 421st CTS' Advanced Contingency Skills Training courses in that it trains security forces and those non-security forces Airmen assigned to security forces unit type codes prior to deploying. The program, which includes 17 days of training, is based upon 21 core tasks determined by the Air Force Security Forces Center.

"Our feedback from the field has been very positive," Captain Gallant said. "We have seen an upward trend in requests from squadron commanders for class allocations as word has gotten out about what Phoenix Warrior and the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center can provide for deploying forces."

Phoenix Warrior comprises three tracks, which feature the 21 core pre-deployment tasks.

"We offer a leadership track for officers and senior NCOs that provides refresher training and the most current TTPs as well as air base defense updates to people deploying to fill leadership roles," Captain Gallant said. "Our radio telephone operator track ensures that people deploying as RTOs are qualified and able to problem-solve issues on the most current communications technologies utilized in the deployed environment.

"Our highest visibility track is our military working dog track," Captain Gallant said, "where we teach six core security forces-directed MWD tasks required for all (Air Mobility Command) MWD teams deploying. Also in the MWD track, we provide training and exposure for dogs that can't be done at home station such as significant live-fire exposure and large-quantity buried explosive detection to prepare for IED searches and helicopter transport."

Staff Sgt. Sam Pruett, an MWD handler from the 6th Security Forces Squadron, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., who participated in Phoenix Warrior Class 07-6, said he appreciates the exclusive environment available in the course that's not readily available at home station.

"Home station operations tempo, with current mission requirements, could restrain you from conducting the style of training you see at Phoenix Warrior," Sergeant Pruett said.

Most home station security requires conducting vehicle checks, building checks and other requirements that may inhibit the ability for a handler to conduct the style of training received in Phoenix Warrior.

As far as a course that's one year old, Sergeant Pruett said, the 421st CTS' progress on course development is "beyond words."

"I look forward to going through the class again in the future just to see how much the program has progressed," Sergeant Pruett said.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Goligowski, also an MWD handler and Phoenix Warrior 07-6 student from the 319th SFS, Grand Forks AFB, N.D., said the entire MWD and Phoenix Warrior program was "excellent."

"It exposed us and our dogs to environments that we will experience down range," Sergeant Goligowski said. "You need to get as much exposure to the real thing as you possibly can and the Phoenix Warrior MWD instructors hit the nail on the head. I am also looking forward to going through the program again later to see how it has changed."

Tech. Sgt. Ryan Thompson, 421st CTS instructor in charge of Phoenix Warrior's combative rifle and pistol live-fire training and a facilitator for dismounted-patrol training, said the course is fast paced and has grown to provide some of the best training available out there for security forces Airmen.

"It's an all-encompassing course," Sergeant Thompson said. "You might spend one day in the classroom, but the next you'll be running in full battle rattle to get your heart rate up to fire under stress."

"The course is ever-changing," he added. "We take what we read in after-action reports and the trends that are taking place down range to continuously redevelop our course. A year from now, the course will most likely be different than it is today."

All through the training, something else happens for Phoenix Warrior students. They build friendships and camaraderie with fellow security forces Airmen.

"The contacts I've made and the personnel I was around in the K-9 portion were an exceptional bunch of handlers and instructors," Sergeant Pruett said. "The entire experience was a great time because amongst all the students there was a motivation and willingness to learn and train in a group. It was training that was second to none."

Captain Gallant said it's training like Phoenix Warrior that really builds on the "warrior ethos" all Airmen share.

"Phoenix Warrior is the perfect venue for building squad continuity and individual warrior ethos," Captain Gallant said. "First, the training is difficult and team effort is required for success. Second, while overcoming the many challenges our students face, they are formed into a cohesive unit learning to trust and depend upon one another. While this is all happening, they are indoctrinated with predeployment skills that will keep them alive and lead to mission success down range. When you combine challenges, teamwork and combat skills, you end up with warrior ethos."

As far as continued success of the course, Captain Gallant said it will take the right ingredients like it has in the first successful year.

"Phoenix Warrior has been successful because of the cadre's dedication to providing the best predeployment training they can," Captain Gallant said. "Little over a year ago, Phoenix Warrior cadre were asked to fill a major Air Mobility Command pre-deployment training void and stand-up a course in less than two months. Through many long days and lost weekends, Phoenix Warrior was developed and cadre were trained.

"The continued dedication of the Phoenix Warrior cadre is what drives the continual improvement of the course.

"This makes Phoenix Warrior successful," Captain Gallant said.