by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
11/21/2012 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany (AFNS) -- Crack, crack, crack.
A whirlwind of excitement and confusion spurred around the camp. Gunfire
echoed through the tents as the Airmen scrambled to find cover.
They peered out from the safety of makeshift bunkers as they searched for the source of the sound.
Reports flooded across the radio of a team outside the wire with an unconscious young captain in tow.
"Get positive control of the casualty and return to base immediately," came across the radio.
Just then, the alarm for incoming mortar fire sounded, and the Airmen
outside the perimeter hit the ground and braced for an explosion.
The cold, soggy ground quickly turned to mud and the wind managed to cut
through the bundles of layers, uniforms and chemical protective gear
they wore. Water engulfed one poor Airman as he dove for the ground and
landed in a puddle of water, the cold of which he would have to endure
for the next 12 hours.
Although this was a controlled scenario and not in an actual combat
environment, Airmen from the 606th Air Control Squadron spent 72 hours
braving the frigid German weather and spending every minute of it
guarding their base to prepare them for the real thing.
The exercise prepares them for the worst, said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt.
Robert Messing, a Bremerton, Wash., native who runs the combat
readiness training course these Airmen experienced.
The course combined two weeks of classroom instruction with three days
of practical exercise. The trainees set up a bare base camp and defended
it at all costs, surviving scenario after scenario from the instructors
and mock enemy combatants.
"They can set up in the middle of nowhere, deploy a radar site and have to defend their own base," said Messer.
It is the physical application of every lesson learned in the past two
weeks, and they must react accordingly to exercises by implementing
proper use of force, securing unexploded ordnance and being aware of
The field training is meant to overwhelm the trainees, creating a sort
of stress inoculation, Messing said. It is also unique because the 606th
ACS has a lot of support Airmen who normally would not deal with combat
or austere deployments.
"Not everyone gets training like security forces, but when these Airmen
come to an (air control squadron), you have to learn how to fight and
defend the objective," he said. "If they can survive here with what we
throw at them, they have a better chance when the real thing happens."
The 606th ACS is a rapidly deployable unit that can quickly pack up and
convoy to any location in the European theater to set up radar sites and
control air assets from strategic remote locations. Because the unit is
self-sufficient, it needs everyone at the same combat capacity. Every
new member must complete the training.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Amanda Bailey, a data systems technician from
Cocoa Beach, Fla., has never dealt with training like this, but enjoyed
working with other Airmen from around the squadron with whom she would
not normally work and learning critical skills that may be used in the
"You're going to mess up, but the beauty of it is that it's a controlled learning environment," Bailey said.