by Tech. Sgt. William Buchanan
125th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
6/2/2015 - TAMPA, Fla. -- Air
National Guard Airmen recently trucked through Tampa traffic to ensure
they were comfortable and experienced travelling as a team through busy
Due to the prevalence of severe storms in Florida, and MacDill AFB's
proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, the 125th Fighter Wing's, 290th Joint
Communications Support Squadron (JCSS) regularly practices packing up
and relocating personnel and equipment to a safe and dry area.
This hurricane exercise convoy training provides unique challenges to
Airmen who most often focus on their specific job specialties. Drivers
must work as a team to communicate effectively and navigate real-world
traffic while battling vehicle noise and safely responding to rapidly
changing conditions. Planners selected a driving route that offers a
variety of traffic conditions intended to potentially disrupt the convoy
and force drivers to work together to maintain a safe and organized
"Convoy training enhances the mission of the 290th because it makes us
more prepared to go out on the road before, during or after a
hurricane," said Master Sgt. Courtney Howard-Kirby, planner for the
exercise. "These exercises ensure our Airmen understand how to make a
left-hand turn down Dale Mabry [Highway] when it's very busy, making
them more prepared and less anxious when they go out after a natural
Convoy training also throws Airmen into the thick of things by pairing
drivers and co-drivers based on mission requirements. Each vehicle was
manned by a fully qualified driver, and a co-driver who had yet to
accomplish vehicle qualification. Howard-Kirby said this provides the
most training value with the limited assets and resources available.
Likewise, planners reviewed the roster and selected motivated and
capable Airmen for leadership opportunities. Staff Sgt. Rebecca Davison
was chosen as the Chalk Commander for the first of three chalks
deploying that day. She was responsible for the accountability of the
vehicles and the personnel included in the chalk.
"Lessons that I learned from this convoy training are just to make sure
communication is very clear and doing double-checks," Davison said, "
not just going through the 1800 vehicle checklist, but really checking
everything and going outside the box as far as what's required."
Approximately 80 Airmen, from multiple job specialties, took to the
vehicle fleet to train for this rapid base evacuation. The group was
composed of Airmen from all skills levels, including those who had no
previous convoy experience. Airman 1st Class George Youstra crammed his
more than six-foot tall body into the driver's seat of a Humvee for his
very first convoy.
"Since we live in the state of Florida, you never know when a hurricane
is going to hit and we've got to be able to move," Youstra said. "A lot
of this equipment we don't touch daily, so we had to prep equipment
we're not used to touching, but everything turned out ok."
Planners at the 290th JCSS schedule these large-scale convoys annually
to ensure all Airmen who serve at the squadron are vehicle qualified
prior to any real-world mission. Members train on Humvees, 1078 LMTVs
and 5-ton trucks. Howard-Kirby said the rapid operations tempo of the
Air National Guard today requires servicemembers at all levels be fully
qualified to best serve the state and federal missions.
"The 290th mission expands beyond just hurricanes," Howard-Kirby said.
"So the training that we do now not only applies to the state of
Florida, it applies to our nation as well."