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NEWS | Aug. 8, 2006

Air Guard pilots train in escape, evasion

By 1st Lt. Tony Vincelli 124th Wing Public Affairs Office

IDAHO CITY, Idaho (AFPN) - A-10 Thunderbolt II pilots from the Idaho Air National Guard's 190th Fighter Squadron ascended the mountains here Aug. 6 for a refresher on escaping the enemy and evading capture should they ever be shot down.

The training they hope they never have to use is important because, while the United States and most other countries continue to abide by the principles of the Geneva Convention, today's enemy does not, said Idaho Air National Guard A-10 pilot Maj. Tim Donnellan.

"Today's battlefield has changed," said Major Donnellan, who doubles as the squadron's training officer. "The traditional rules on treatment of prisoners of war won't always apply. We wanted to emphasize the philosophy of 'don't get caught.'"

More than 20 pilots and a dozen support personnel from nearby Gowen Field spent all or part of their Guard drill weekend training on survival, escape, resistance and evasion techniques.

Senior Master Sgt. Bryan Littrell, the squadron's life support superintendent who led the training program, split the pilots into groups of two and sent them off into the rugged mountain terrain of the Boise National Forest here with nothing but a Global Positioning Satellite unit and a compass.

Sergeant Littrell said the training wasn't designed to be easy. Pilots had to navigate their way to six different stations, some as far as a half mile apart, without being seen by the enemy, played in this scenario by intelligence specialists from the 124th Operations Support Flight.

All aircrew members are required to attend the U.S. Air Force Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash., as part of their initial training. Pilots must complete refresher training like the 190th's at regular intervals throughout their career. Idaho's pilots have the benefit of conducting training in remote areas that are similar to parts of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 190th Fighter Squadron's pilots have experience flying in hostile environments. They were deployed to Kuwait in the spring of 2003 when Operation Iraqi Freedom began.

Although they have not been ordered to deploy, Idaho Air Guard pilots approach this and all training as if they could be called up at any time.

"We've been over there before, so we know how important this kind of training is. I think we all approached it with a sense of urgency today," Major Donnellan said.