SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. - Michigan’s Citizen-Airmen have refreshed and renewed their fundamental war-fighting skills after four days of highly focused training at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.
The training is part of the Air National Guard’s ongoing three-part mission to stand ready to fight America’s wars, secure the homeland and build enduring partnerships.
“There is no higher priority, no more important mission than to be ready to defend our nation,” said Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum, 127th Wing commander at Selfridge. “In 2018, we are re-emphasizing our basic war fighting skills, to ensure that we are the most lethal, combat-ready force possible.”
In February, the 127th Wing scheduled a “super drill” – four days of duty rather than the standard two – and held an Expeditionary Skills “Rodeo” in which Airmen donned chemical war fighting protection suits, conducted rifle marksmanship training and ensured that various medical requirements were up to date to ensure that both individuals and units at the base are ready to answer a deployment call on a moment’s notice.
At the Selfridge rifle range, more than 240 Airmen re-qualified on M-4 rifles over the four-day period. Later in the week, dozens more were scheduled to qualify with M-9 handguns.
“It is an 8-hour block of training, followed by spending time out on the range, getting comfortable with handling the weapon and live-firing,” Tech. Sgt. Jeremy DeFour, a combat arms training instructor with the 127th Security Forces Squadron at Selfridge. “It is hard to be proficient with a weapon without having a chance to actually get out and fire it.”
To handle the increased training flow, the Security Forces Squadron had several Citizen-Airmen, who normally only serve one weekend per month, on-duty at the base, additional days.
Such an arrangement requires the 127th Wing to rely on a key partner in the community – local employers who work with their employees who serve in the Air National Guard to accommodate the change in schedule.
“Our employers are a key partner,” said Col. David Brooks, 127th Wing vice-commander. “For most of them, they see this as a patriotic duty and are so supportive of our Airmen. That really takes a load off the mind of the Airmen to know that their employer is supportive of their military service.”
While some combat arms trainers were busy at the rifle range, the 127th Wing’s local specialists in CBRNE -- Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive – were instructing others in how to properly wear the protective equipment that would be used in a chemical warfare environment.
“This gear will allow our Airmen to carry out their mission, be it at home or in a deployed environment,” said Airman 1st Class Anthony Band, an emergency management specialist with the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron. “Today’s training is just the basics, how to wear it properly, how to check your partner so that you can work together in ensuring the gear is right.”
The 127th Wing is planning a follow-up training exercise later in 2018 when the chemical warfare gear will be worn while Airmen are on the job – maintaining, supporting, launching and flying aircraft.
“Even for those of us who have been around a little while, it is good to stop, take a breath and get back to the basics, to crawl, then walk, then run,” said Chief Master Sgt. Tony Whitehead, 127th Wing command chief. “It is foundational to our skills and our duties as Airmen.”
At the base medical clinic, Selfridge Airmen got caught up on both medical readiness requirements and were trained in self-aid and buddy care.
“As a provider for the medical group we strive to make sure our Airman are worldwide deployable at a moment’s notice,” said Major Sami Zamzam a flight surgeon with the 127th Medical Group.
Tech. Sgt. Sharmaine Hicks, an aeromedical technician with the 127th Medical Group, spent the drill period administering vaccinations and related services to Airmen.
Hicks said she values the importance of readiness: “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.”
“I don’t mind coming in for my IMR” said Tech. Sgt. Brett Haas, a data maintenance system analyst with the 127th Maintenance Operation Flight, who spent part of his drill getting signed off on various medical tests.
“I don’t mind it. This makes sure I am fit to fight,” he said.