FRANCIS S. GABRESKI AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.Y. – New York Air National Guard Airmen from the 106th Rescue Wing's Civil Engineering Squadron (CES) deployed to Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida, for a 10-day Silver Flag exercise in January.
The 19 engineers trained for a week, followed by an intense two-day wartime simulation.
Silver Flag is an essential exercise for those who serve in engineering, ensuring they are ready to deploy and conduct combat missions. Air Force regulations require Airmen to be Silver Flag-trained every four years and before deployments to maintain readiness.
Master Sgt. Michael Gadman, 106th Rescue Wing assistant chief of fire prevention, explained the Silver Flag exercise allows civil engineers to use all their skills in a real-world training environment.
"The team worked hard to establish a bare base," Gadman said. "They had to install runways, put up tents, building structures, got clean drinking water, found electrical power to keep everything running smoothly, and made sure aircraft could land and fly out again safely at this new location."
Bare bases are ideal for military operations, allowing flexibility and speed. The 106th engineers can quickly go into a bare base with little infrastructure or support on-site due to their experience working under minimized circumstances.
The 106th CES is responsible for providing the backbone of any military installation. They are in charge of operations, electrical power production, HVAC, water and fuel management systems, engineering assistance, pavement, heavy systems, fire, emergency management, and structural management.
"The Air Guard provides a unique opportunity for those with engineering experience, giving our military members an edge," Gadman said. "We also attract high school graduates who can benefit significantly from the skills they develop here in this squadron. Some even pursue them right after joining up."
The 106th CES has been taking part in Silver Flag exercises for decades. The rigorous training is essential to readiness, should the unit ever be called upon, in conventional or unconventional conflicts, including federal and state missions.
The Airmen's training and equipment proved useful when helping the community during Superstorm Sandy, Gadman recalled. "Our expertise with heavy equipment came in handy, clearing debris from roads so our neighbors could recover from (the) tragedy quickly."
Tyndall AFB has the only Federal Aviation Administration burn pit in America, enabling firefighters to ignite jet fuel at high temperatures for aircraft rescue and firefighting exercises.
Senior Airman Kerry Schmitt, 106th firefighter, said Silver Flag was an eye-opening experience.
"The highlight of the training was fighting a jet fuel fire with foam," Schmitt said. "Most fire training uses propane, which can be turned off in an emergency. When jet fuel is burning, you must extinguish it. This training was great for breaking tunnel vision and helping me to open my eyes to see what was going on in fighting fires. It was amazing!"
Senior Airman Theodore Quintana, 106th structural specialist, said he enjoyed the training and appreciated the expertise of the Air Force active-duty instructors.
"The Silver Flag exercise has given me the skills and confidence to handle any situation," Quintana said.