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    Dixie Wanderer 2015 tests tactical skills of air support operations Airmen

    Dixie Wanderer 2015

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Darron Salzer | An Airman with the 148th Air Support Operations Squadron, Pennsylvania Air National...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Darron Salzer 

    National Guard Bureau

    FORT A.P. HILL, Va. – Conducting tactical convoy operations during the day and operating under blackout conditions with night vision after dark, plotting points on a map and hiking equipment through the woods, while defending against simulated enemy forces is what many expect during any typical infantry training exercise, but in this case it was not infantry – it was the Air National Guard.

    Airmen from air support operations squadrons in the eastern U.S. recently spent seven days here for the inaugural Dixie Wanderer 2015 exercise.

    As support personnel for tactical air control party specialists, or TACPs, and joint terminal attack controllers, or JTACs – both combat Airman roles – these Airmen, who normally perform maintenance, logistic and administrative duties, experienced firsthand what it is like to be a combat Airmen.

    “All of these guys aren’t actually combat [Airmen], but support the combat [Airmen] of air support operations squadrons,” said Tech. Sgt. Nathan Bellinger, a radio frequency systems technician for the 148th Air Support Operations Squadron.

    The Airmen encountered scenarios in which they had to repel simulated enemy attacks, recover a downed vehicle in a convoy, plot and navigate points on a topographical map, and recover a simulated supply drop at night.

    “We’re trying to build their skills and capabilities so if they were going to go on a convoy or a helicopter flight, where there is a possibility that they could be attacked and get into a firefight, they would be able to handle themselves,” Bellinger said.

    Tech. Sgt. Scottie Brown, an electrical power production specialist with the 118th ASOS, said he thought the training was a great way to show what it’s like when the TACP and JTACs go off into the woods.

    “I think a lot of the [Airmen] here who are support and don’t have much experience sleeping in the woods, going on patrols and reading maps [this] is giving them an opportunity to learn these skills before they might have to need them in a real world situation,” Brown said. “They’re testing us a little on how well we know our jobs, such as radio operation, power production and supply, but most of the scenarios have focused on infantry skills we need to know well enough to be able to jump in with the Army or tactical air control parties and become another fighter.”

    However, Dixie Wanderer is not about strengthening the capabilities of the individual Airman, but the ASOS community as a whole.

    “We’re finding that coming together in one location has enabled our community to share best practices and learn more about how each of the units here operates, which will make our community stronger,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Timothy Greiner, a support superintendent with the 148th ASOS, adding that leaders recognized that many support Airmen were not getting enough of this type of training at home stations.

    “For some of the units here, they see what their strongpoints are and what areas they need to work on, which gives them a better idea of what they would need should they ever have to deploy,” Greiner said.

    Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Cook, chief of maintenance with the 182nd Air Support Operations Group, agreed.

    “It’s an opportunity to see what other units are doing, what equipment they are using and can that be done in other units,” Cook said. “We’re not looking for one unit to get better, but is the entire ASOS community going to get better.”

    This sharing of best practices not only strengthens the ASOS community, but also makes those Airmen a force multiplier, said Bellinger.

    “The skills that they’re going to come away with are going to make them better troops and when they deploy they’re going to have the skills they need,” he said.

    “I think units should want to be here, and at the very least take what we have done here and create your own version of it back home,” he said. “Start doing more than just your job and take the skills that you are suppose to have and expand on them because there is so much more to this job.”



    Date Taken: 07.01.2015
    Date Posted: 07.01.2015 13:59
    Story ID: 168786
    Location: FORT A.P. HILL, VA, US 

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