‘Charp Fest’ sharpens skills

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Armando C. Argiz
  • 140th Wing Public Affairs
There was a bitter chill in the air at the Airburst Range in Fort Carson, Colo., as the members of the Colorado Air National Guard's 140th Security Forces Squadron lined up in formation Sept.12. The trainees patiently awaited orders to kickoff the training exercise nicknamed "Charp Fest," after the 140th SFS training manager and head instructor of this exercise, Master Sgt. Michael Charpentier. 

As the sun began to rise and expose the desolate mountainous terrain, Charpentier took his place in front of the formation to explain the three blocks of training that would take place: a slow-paced walk through with movement in combat formations, a live fire exercise with tactical team movements, and a night fire force-on-force event using paint balls and blank ammunition. When the words "live fire," echoed, the reality of the exercise set in. 

"This is what our mission is going to become," said Maj. Sean Tiernan, 140th SFS commander. 

To ensure safety, the cadre enlisted the help of one of its traditional members, Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Weinfurter, to act as a medic. In her civilian job, she's an emergency medical technician and that qualifies her to tend to most of her fellow Airmen's medical needs. 

"We want to make an environment that is safe, but also one where they can learn and get better at their jobs," said Charpentier. 

Phase one began before any weapons or ammunition were issued.  Airmen formed into lines; standing and stepping in parallel to each other.  To make sure an individual didn't advance too quickly, a trainer followed behind the fire team to keep the unit in line.  The training intensified once the fire teams moved forward and simulated a full weapons assault.  After the first fire team took the prone position, the second team, who were behind, stood up and advanced toward the target. 

Once the trainees began to understand their roles, the cadre issued weapons so the troops could learn to use them effectively and safely in a combat formation. After 2 1/2 hours of repetitious drills, the fatigue of wearing body armor while operating a weapon and continuously moving from standing to prone positions began to show on the trainees' faces. At that point, the cadre ended this portion of the training and issued ammunition for the next phase. 

In the live fire portion of training, simulated explosions and smoke grenades helped make the experience realistic. This was the first time these Airmen attempted this type of training, and at this tempo, they took it seriously. 

With boots laced and body armor on, the intrepid Airmen begin their march to a mock village, where the next phase of the exercise took place.  As they moved across the rocky terrain, the assaulting force slipped in the dirt and tripped over bushes.  Dehydration also became an issue and was constantly being remedied. 

Many of the more seasoned personnel showed the younger Airmen what to look for while moving in formation and providing security. 

When the village came in sight, it was only a matter of moments before a simulated explosion and smoke grenades filled the air. Within seconds, the assaulting force took action, shooting at paper targets in the mock city.  Squad leaders called out to their fire teams, telling them to move, take strategic positions and engage the targets.  The Airmen moved and fired with such precision and fluidity, one could see their training was beginning to pay off.  

At the end of this phase, all live rounds were expended and the village was purged of any mock enemy forces.  The Airmen took a break as they waited for the sun to go down so they could begin the night fire portion of the exercise. 

As the sun went down, the force-on-force training began. The Security Forces Airmen were broken up in to two teams; the ambush team held a strategic position on higher ground while the assault team attempted to eliminate its new "enemy." 

In the end, all remaining ammunition was expended and neither team gained strategic advantage over the other. However, with changing times and ongoing warfare, security forces troops must be adaptable; and their new, more active combat roles make this training even more relevant.