News: Airmen, Soldiers come together to train as they fight
Story by Spc. Charlotte Fitzgerald
FORT DIX, N.J. – When it is pouring down rain, windy and a little cold, the last thing anyone wants to do is carry someone around on a litter or crawl through ankle-deep mud.
Members of both the Army and the Air Force came together to accomplish this task in order to finish their weeklong CLS course at Fort Dix, N.J., Oct. 1. Not only did the two services have to work together as a team, but they also overcame several obstacles and faced dynamic weather conditions.
“Joint training is important because it ensures we are able to perform cohesively in joint operations,” said Sgt. Angie Smith, a broadcast journalist. “Especially during situations like this where service members have to come together to care for one another in a combat environment.”
Air Force Maj. Chara Ballard, assigned to Joint Task Force Combating Terrorism based out of Washington, said the soldiers and airmen underwent three basic phases of combat care during the course. The phases were - care under fire, tactical field care and evacuation. Each phase incorporated basic tasks and techniques the service members were taught throughout the course, as well as basic movement tactics, techniques and procedures.
“CLS is important to anyone, regardless of what type of uniform they wear,” said Ballard, a Briar, Wash., native. “Having universal procedures for care under fire is key.”
Ballard also stated Air Force members learned a lot about how to conduct patrols from their Army counterparts because the Air Force doesn’t typically train for ground tactics.
“CLS is essential to both forces because as a collective and unified force, our first priority as a combat lifesaver is to save lives,” said Smith, a Charlotte, N.C. native. “The CLS training is developed to increase our survivability during combat.”
Airman 1st Class Chayne Vandezande, a computer programmer attached to the Air Force Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems, based out of Montgomery, Ala., said training with and under the Army personnel is definitely an eye-opening experience.
“I’ve always had a mutual respect for every branch of the military, but I’ve never actually seen it ‘til I got here to Fort Dix for training,” said Vandezande, a South Bend, Ind., native. “It’s very critical to work with different branches because downrange we will be working with every branch, as well as the Afghan National Army. It’s good to get this training now and have that exposure to the other branches. That way we are better prepared for it when we go downrange.”
Not only did the two services join forces during the CLS training to complete the course, they had to work together to overcome each obstacle in the confidence course, including the wind and the rain.
“A lot of people in the service look at the uniforms and we know that we are different from one another, but (during the training), we saw it as a civilian would and only saw one uniform,” Vandezande said. “We all worked together very well.”
The services split into two teams, allowing members of each service to trade places to create a joint training aspect. From there, they conducted a walking patrol scenario to find and recover an injured casualty. They had to overcome each of the obstacles while reacting to direct and indirect fire throughout the course.
“Once we recovered the casualty, we put him on a litter and then had to lift him over a high wall, which required a lot of teamwork,” Vandezande said. “From there, we went through a narrow passage and then had to lower our casualty into a trench.”
Vandezande also said the teams navigated over a couple of low walls and then low crawled under concertina wire soaking them in mud and rain.
“The hardest aspect of the training was performing care under fire during the litter carry exercise,” said Smith, assigned to the 210th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, based out of Cary, N.C. “Under such pressure, it was difficult to evaluate and administer care in a battlefield situation while maintaining focus of the mission.”
After the teams reached the collection point, they had to call in a medical evacuation to simulate recovering the casualty.
“The whole process was based entirely on teamwork and how well the teams communicated and worked together,” said Vandezande. “Security was definitely one of the biggest issues. Without security, we wouldn’t have had just one casualty, we would have had 19.”
Both Ballard and Vandezande agreed that working in a joint training environment was beneficial, not only to the services, but also to their missions overseas as well. They added they look forward to more training like this in the future.