"One of a Kind" Training
By Tech. Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf, 140th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 17, 2009
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- On a cold and rainy late spring morning, a convoy from the137th Space Warning Squadron departed Greeley Air National Guard Station.
The convoy was making its way north to Ellsworth AFB located just outside of Rapid City, S.D. starting June 8.
Members of the 137th SWS performed their annual training at Ellsworth AFB due to its unique environment. The unfamiliar location provided the opportunity for the Airmen to step outside their comfort zones and work in conditions they may not have the opportunity to experience back home in Greeley, Colo.
The 137th SWS is a one-of-a-kind unit that has the ability to survive and operate through all phases of trans/post attacks. The self-contained mobile satellite communications ground unit provides immediate, worldwide missile warning, space launch and nuclear detonation detection to the National Command Authority in the event of an attack against the United States.
The Airmen can be deployed at a moment's notice to any location around the world, making their training at Ellsworth AFB more of a necessity rather than a luxury.
Airman 1st Class Miriah Fehringer, who has only had the opportunity to train in Greeley, said going out to Ellsworth opened her eyes to the bigger picture. "Being in Greeley is one thing, but coming out and doing it makes it more realistic," she said.
The training was divided into two stages. The first was annual acillary training, or preparation training. This consisted of weapons qualification; Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape; response to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats; rules on the use of force; defensive and offensive rifle training; challenging; searching; handcuffing and other physical restraint techniques; as well as annual physical training.
During these annual training events, members of the 137th SWS took advantage of the facilities at Ellsworth AFB and received hands-on experience using a Firearms Training System. Members were given the ability to experience simulated, feel-for-real convoy and combat attack situations in a controlled environment.
Live fire training on the firing range provided the capability for the 137th Security Forces Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructors to give hands-on familiarization training on an M-203 40 mm grenade launcher. Senior Master Sgt. Amy Bond, who has never had the opportunity to fire the M-203, said that even though she's not a security forces member, it's been beneficial to learn the capabilities of the weapons.
The CATM instructors added that the experience with the various weapons helps to build confidence in using them.
In addition to Ellsworth's excellent training facilities, it also has highly skilled and qualified trainers. Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Walter, a 28th Operations Support Squadron SERE instructor, is among them. Walter, along with Capt. Marty Sommer, 137th SWS operations officer, gave essential interactive training on survival techniques. "Being mentally prepared for your given environment is a challenge. This experience has given them the tools to help keep them [137th Airmen] focused and motivated if they're ever put into a survival situation," said Sommer.
One of the exercises taught folks how to quickly and effectively build their own fires. According to Walter, "Building a fire is one of the largest motivation accomplishments that a person trying to survive in any given environment can have. By doing this one task you have given yourself the edge of survival."
The second part of the training included deploying at a classified time to a classified location as they would in a real world situation. They operated exactly as they would if fixed missile warning sites were to become unusable. Tech. Sgt. Anthony Mixon, a 16-year veteran of satellite communications, spent his first 14 and a half years working at a fixed location before he moved over to the 137th SWS. Mixon commented on the differences in working at a base compared to working with the mobile unit. "When working back in garrison, you have access to the things you need. However when you're deployed, what you have is what you work with. It creates a different set of challenges. If we forget something or are not prepared, it could greatly impact the mission. There are checks upon check before we even get out the door."
As the annual training wrapped up, members of the 137th began to ready their semi-trucks and equipment knowing the possibility of being sent virtually anywhere in the world exists 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Tools had to be inspected, systems had to be checked, check lists were double-checked. Now it's time to for members of the 137th SWS to wait.
The mission of the 137th SWS can take Airmen to areas where they may have to interact with the local population, or to some of the most desolate areas on earth. They could set up deep in the woods or in a deserted parking lot located on the corner of some main street. No one knows.
What members of the 137th SWS do know is that they are fully qualified and ready to support the nation when called on for this truly one-of-a-kind support.