by Bryan Ripple
88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
9/17/2015 - FAIRBORN, Ohio -- An
old saying goes that "If you want to understand why someone thinks or
acts the way they do, try walking a mile in their shoes."
The Air Force Research Laboratory Tech Warrior 2015 exercise held Sept.
9-17, 2015, at Wright State University's National Center for Medical
Readiness in Fairborn, Ohio, provided about 200 military and civilian
personnel the chance to do exactly that.
The shoes they were trying to fill were actually combat boots -- those
of Airmen deployed to a bare base forward operating location as part of a
wartime exercise scenario. The exercise was carefully scripted to
provide realistic events through the knowledge and experience of
seasoned staff members who have completed multiple overseas deployments.
Subject matter expert Army National Guard Lt. Col. James Eriksen,
himself an Army Ranger, was on the scene providing valuable combat
skills training. For the exercise participants, most of whom were
research scientists and engineers who normally work in lab settings
developing battlefield technologies, the event provided valuable
experience in a simulated operational environment that will shape future
ways of thinking about new battlefield technologies.
Wearing Airman Battle Uniforms, helmets, Kevlar vests, and carrying M-16
rifles and chemical protective ensembles, participants arrived at the
dusty field at the NCMR, known as Calamityville, and soon built the site
into a base camp with defendable entry control points in an effort to
provide a better understanding of what service members experience in
Participants were divided into a Warrior Squadron and a Technology
Squadron with both teams integrated into the exercise scenarios. The
event provided an excellent opportunity for AFRL scientists and
engineers to test, experiment, conduct data collection, insert, and
demonstrate state-of-the-art warfighting technologies in a realistic
Warrior squadron members completed a number of training modules
including mounted and dismount tactics, first aid, base defense, and
disaster recovery prior to a 48-hour capstone activity. This activity
challenged members to integrate their newly learned skills during
increasingly realistic scenarios.
New technologies such as the BioStampRC Wearable Sensing Platform
utilized an easily worn patch that provided long-term human performance
monitoring and reliable data for biomedical research. Another technology
used video cameras placed around the camp to collect
real-time intelligence information that analysts used and provided to
defenders in the field. Some embedded cadre members also tested and
provided feedback for augmented-reality glasses that superimposed
symbols and identified where they were in relation to threats.
"It's been a great opportunity to have our scientists and engineers and
some of the junior people of AFRL come out and get some real-world
operational experience and take those experiences back and make sure the
technologies that we're developing better fit the needs of our
warfighters," said Maj. Jared Ekholm, Warrior Squadron commander.
Second lieutenant Carlos Bonano, from the 711th Human Performance Wing, said he's never been on a deployment before.
"We got to see a lot of what the people down range experience, including
their living conditions. It gave us good ideas about how to potentially
better our research to make their lives a little easier," Bonano said.
Joel Moore, a computer scientist from AFRL's Information Directorate in
Rome, New York, said, "This has been an excellent experience, especially
for the younger officers in the lab environment because they don't have
the opportunity to do field training like this."
As the senior Air Force Reserve Individual Mobilization Augmentee for
AFRL headquarters, Lt. Col. David Shahady has been the Tech Warrior
commander since 2011. He is also a civilian employee at AFRL and the
branch chief with the Human Analyst Augmentation Branch at the 711 HPW.
"The biggest lesson I learned is to never underestimate what an
individual is capable of doing when they're passionate about it. It
warms my heart to see someone with no experience in a particular area
jump in and thrive in the environment while saying, 'I'm going to learn
and do this job to the very best of my ability'," he said.
Shahady said initial planning is already being done for next year's iteration of Tech Warrior.
"We created a great model for this exercise and what I think is good
about it is that it is scalable. We can add more sites, more types of
scenarios, we can have more people at more locations doing various
different things and the exercise could actually grow. From a
technologist perspective, it's very important that we maintain the
flexibility that sparks innovation. As long as we stay within the bounds
of safety and security, I think the growth of the exercise is only
bound by our imagination," he said.
Participants and supporters this year also included personnel from the
88th Air Base Wing, Wright State University, NCMR, the Ohio Army and Air
National Guard, and Sinclair Community College.
"The participants arrived here as engineers and scientists and I hope
that they left as technological warriors, and always look at new
technology from a warrior's perspective," Shahady said.