Friday, December 07, 2007

First Air National Guard contingency response group trains

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

Students in the Air Force Contingency Response Group Formal Training Unit Course 08-1and the Air Force CRG FTU Advanced Course 08-1 prepare humvees for a convoy out to a range for training on night vision operations Nov. 15 at Fort Dix, N.J. The 22-day courses are taught by the Air Force Expeditionary Center's Mobility Operations School. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

FORT DIX, N.J. (AFPN) -- Airmen assigned to the nation's first Air National Guard contingency response group unit attended 22 days of training at the Air Force Expeditionary Center's Mobility Operations School here.

Fifty-six Airmen from the 115-person 123rd Contingency Response Group of the Kentucky Air National Guard at Louisville completed the comprehensive, four-module course covering all the phases of CRG operations to include subjects such as air base assessment, initial airfield operations and force protection and Alaskan shelter construction.

The 22-day stay included 10 days in the Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course, taught by the Center's Expeditionary Operations School, learning convoy operations, military operations in urban terrain, combat patrolling and tactics and many related subjects.

"The training they received is designed to provide newly-assigned Airmen to contingency response wings, groups and airlift control flights with a firm understanding of the 'contingency response' mission," said Lt. Col. Richard Elkins, the course director.

"The course prepares them for rapid deployment and equips them with the basic expeditionary skills needed to function across the full spectrum of military operations and in a wide variety of bed down and operating environments," he said.

Capt. Ash Groves, a 123rd CRG maintenance officer, said the course gave him the exposure he needed to learn the "many facets of expeditionary operations."

"Many of the skills learned will take time for us to become proficient at, however, with the initial ground work accomplished, we can continue to build on our capability (as a unit)," Captain Groves said.

The establishment of the mission and the directive to form 123rd CRG was established just over one year ago on Nov. 28, 2006, in Louisville. The unit formally activates on April 1, 2008. The Airmen assigned to this unit say the training is needed and has definitely helped build on the knowledge of the mission they are tasked to do.

"We are expected to be self-sufficient when we hit the ground and capable of operating in nearly any environment," said Capt. Gregory Shanding, a 123rd CRG civil engineer officer. "In the training, I learned a lot about what the other CRG functions will focus on as we together accomplish our mission. I also received an excellent 'big picture' perspective on how the CRG fits into how the Air Force fights."

"We have to be able to go anywhere in the world in a matter of hours. Most Airmen have days, weeks or even months to do the same," Tech. Sgt. Mike Skeens, an air transportation craftsman for the 123rd CRG, said. "The training reiterated the fact that you have to be prepared at all times for contingencies anywhere, anytime."

For Staff Sgt. Thomas Fuchs, the training built on skills he's learned as a 123rd CRG security forces troop, he said.

"Being security forces, this was great refresher training, and the CRG classes were very informative," Sergeant Fuchs said. "When you deploy with a CRG, everyone needs to have knowledge of other career fields in the unit, and this training helped me understand that."

The 123rd students who took the training also say they know being in a CRG is unique and requires specialized training.

"We could hear about our deployments just days before we have to leave," said Senior Airman Ryan McNary, a 123rd CRG load planner. "We have to be ready at a moment's notice and always be current on our training."

Staff Sgt. Tyler Marks, also a 123rd CRG load planner, compared the type of effort it takes for a CRG to deploy with the normal process.

"Normally when Airmen deploy, they pack bags with gear and clothing to perform a duty at a down-range base," Sergeant Marks said. "With a CRG, they pack an entire unit, load it on to aircraft and go open a base that is nothing more than a deserted airstrip when they arrive. For us to be able to do this, training is everything."

Lt. Col. Warren Hurst, the 123rd CRG commander, said the ultimate goal is for his CRG to be among the best, and the Center's training helps accomplish that goal.

"Kentucky has selected our most experienced and motivated people for our CRG," Colonel Hurst said. "We have a unique opportunity to establish a corporate culture that sets a high standard of excellence. The Expeditionary Center provided an outstanding and standardized starting point for us to do just that."