Communtiy Warfighters pass the test

  • Published
  • By Josh Aycock
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Community leaders from around the Miami Valley converged here May 17 and 18 to challenge themselves at living the life of a deployed Warfigher Airman.

Operation Community Warfighter gave 14 community members, ranging from marketing specialists to mayors, the chance to experience what Airmen across the country go through before and during a deployment. Beginning at the point when an Airman knows they are deploying all the way through the deployment, the community leaders received a 28-hour crash course on Air Force life.

"We wanted them to have the same feeling and experience our Airmen get when they're heading down range and what it's like while they're there," said Col. Brad Spacy, 88th Air Base Wing commander. "Better yet, the rain was cooperating with us; I was afraid it was going to be sunny."

The rain-soaked day began with a group of individuals receiving a concept briefing establishing who they were and what their mission would be. They were headed for the Transient Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan to join the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing and provide air combat power projection throughout the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility, including tactical airlift and air refueling, principally in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM.


The general consensus of the group was just that. Not knowing what lay ahead, the group's only common bond was that of confusion and some minor connections in their lives outside the base.

Briefing after briefing the group gained more detail on their upcoming mission. The group received a whirlwind of briefings ranging from medical requirements to weather conditions both for their deployment on base and what an Airmen would need if deploying to Manas. The weather briefing highlighted the difference in circumstances when the group was told the forecast at Manas was 80 degrees and sunny, while there soon to be home at the Warfighter Training Center on base was 56 degrees and rainy.

"This is very real, these essentially are all the same briefings I received before I headed out," said Staff Sgt. Brian McGahey, 88th ABW communication squadron, home from his first deployment to Kabul, Afghanistan.

After having the stage set for them, the community leaders were packed onto a bus and shipped to the Mobility Bags Center to get issued their gear. The group checked to ensure they had the essentials: a sleeping bag, canteen, mess kit, ammo holder, helmet, flack vest, poncho, web belt.

Their bags were then loaded into a truck while the group got back on the bus and headed for the processing line, which is normally the last stop for Airmen before boarding a plane for their final destination. At the processing line the group experienced the last stop that ensures Airmen are 100 percent ready to deploy.

Are we there yet?

As the group got antsy to put boots on the ground, one final stop was a must to ensure they were ready: firearms training. The group then headed for the Firearms Training Simulator, a state-of-the-art training tool that replaces bullets with laser beams and enemies with computers and video projectors to offer a wide range of realistic training scenarios.

There the group learned about how to hold, fire and reload M-16s and M-4s. As the community leaders were taken through several scenarios, both them and their instructors realized aiming would have to wait for their next visit to Wright-Patt.

"The people helping us have the patience of a saint," said Frank Cervone, a Fairborn City Councilman. "What they have to go through is incredible."

After chowing down on a meal ready to eat, or MRE, the group was finally ready to deploy to Manas. Once again, the group got back on the bus, but this time a little more excitement filled the air as they were ready to jump into the fray.

Upon arriving to the Warfighter Training Center, the group instantly realized they might have wanted to stay on the other side of the base and receive some more briefings.

What have I gotten into?

With a quick introduction from their deployed base commander, the group was ushered outside and introduced to the muddy terrain that makes up the WTC. High crawling, low crawling, moving as a team, rifle fighting and being taught other basic maneuvers had the group becoming intimately familiar with the wet ground.

"I thought it was going to be a cake walk, but this training is something else," said Mr. Cervone. "I quickly realize that Airman today are really down in the ditches and they're fighting."

After learning the basics, the group was split into two squads, the Grave Robbers and the Vikings, to implement their newly gained skills. Given three clips of blanks each and a point on base to defend/attack, the squads mounted into transport trucks and the skirmish ensued.

Returning to camp, some with tales of glory, the squads were ready to eat and get into a dry set of clothing.

The day isn't over?

Sounds of explosions filled the air, smoke rose from the ground and warnings were relayed over the loud speaker as small teams took turns guarding the bases entry, manning the operation center and staffing the base hospital.

At each turn the teams were constantly reminded of the realities facing today's Airmen.

"We weren't pulling any punches," said Colonel Spacy. "They need to know that Airmen from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are fighting this war and we want to give them a taste of what it's like."

With a short break under their belt, the team was once again split into their squads, given their clips and met each other in the woods on a night combat mission. The squads would not let the darkness hinder their expertise and ability to return to base with bragging rights. Maneuvers started becoming second nature, communication between fire teams was clear and somehow the basics no longer looked basic.

"We became a family real quick," said Mr. Cervone

That feeling was displayed at the end of the day as the group shared war stories around a bonfire into the early hours of the next morning.

Are you kidding me?

Shortly after the last person had found comfort in their sleeping bag, simulated mortar rounds rang throughout the camp and the familiar voice of the loud speaker greeted the weary warriors. Mortar rounds continued throughout the night, ensuring each community leader received a peaceful night's sleep.

As the loud speaker informed the group that breakfast would be served at 6:30 a.m., the sounds of mortar explosions were replaced by groans.

One final test lay before the newly crowned Community Warfighters, a force-on-force skirmish with Wright-Patt senior leaders using actual projectiles. Simunition, or training ammunition, replaced the blanks in their clips and the squads were tasked with protecting the base. No one knows for sure if Transient Center at Manas was ever overtaken by the opposing force but both sides agreed it was a battle for the ages.

We have to leave so soon?

After their final test, each community leader received a certificate of completion and a commander's coin for their hard work. Cold, wet and working off a couple hours of sleep, the Community Warfighers got back on the bus to head home.

The group took with them experiences they are sure to talk about over other bonfires and a new idea of what today's Airman is really like.

"This experience has changed my perception of the Air Force and the Airmen in it," said Dean Alexander, a manager with the National Park Service. "We interact with wing leadership all the time, but this has been a true bonding experience."