STEWART AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, New York --
Airmen of the 105 Airlift Wing, along with members of the New York Guard (NYG), participated in a joint training, readiness exercise, January 11-12, 2020, at Stewart Air National Guard Base, Newburgh, New York.
Over 300 service members, broken down into small teams, were confronted with multiple scenarios that challenged their combat readiness, situational awareness, equipment familiarity, and problem solving skills to traverse chaotic environments.
Col. Denise Donnell, 105th AW commander, participated in the training exercise.
“It was a shock to the system,” said Donnell. “You get a brief, the ramp goes down, and all of the sudden you see smoke, flashing lights, and the sounds that you’re not used to hearing in a state-side location.”
1st Lt. Steven Morris, 105th AW installation deployment officer, coordinated the training confidence course for the Wing.
“More focus has been placed on our ability to survive and operate (ATSO) in contested and degraded operational environments,” Morris stated. “Our Wing’s vision was to provide a training event that would provide an elevated level of urgency, realism, and induced stress while performing tasks in their chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) protective equipment.”
As the sound of gunfire echoed in the aircraft hangar, participants were seen donning protective equipment, rushing through smoke filled, low-light rooms, addressing wounded individuals, and facing potential explosive ordinances.
“The intended outcome of the event was to assess how the unit-level training has prepared Airmen for possible real-world degraded conditions and to create buy-in and a sense of urgency,” said Morris.
Donnell also thought that the realism in the training was affective.
“We need more training like this,” Donnell said. “We need dynamic training that makes people want to practice and understand why it’s important to refine their skills.”
Maj. Steven Hartov, commander of Task Force 105 - 2/56 AC NYG, coordinated the NYG soldiers during the training event.
“Our role in the ATSO training began with preparation and construction of the various training areas,” Hartov stated. “We then supplied soldiers to help execute the training itself, putting Airmen through a chemical and biological warfare labyrinth. NYG personnel conducted traffic control for Airmen in protective gear, briefed them prior to going through the course, supplied them with equipment, monitored their progress with regard to safety concerns, received their real time reports via radios, and supplied trained medics in case of injuries.”
Some of the NYG soldiers acted as role players with real-world injuries, forcing the Airmen to handle the casualties as they would in a catastrophic incident.
“The mission of the NYG is to support our sister military organization within the state, many of whom are fielding personnel worldwide for ongoing military operations,” said Hartov. “With the Air Force's high operational tempo and large numbers of Airmen going into harm's way, it is our duty, and honor, to help prepare those personnel for every anticipated challenge.”
Donnell commended the NYG for their involvement and performance in the training.
“The NYG were critically important for providing logistical support to allow our evaluators to do their job and allow our Airmen to go through in a safe learning environment,” said Donnell. “We couldn’t have done it without them. The value of the NYG integrating with the Airmen of the 105th AW builds those relationships so that some day, if we deploy out into a domestic operations event in the state, we know we will be a stronger domestic operations force.”
As the scenarios ended, Airmen were given an opportunity to discuss their overall performance through the training with evaluators and exercise facilitators.
“My primary impression in observing the ATSO training was the level of professionalism demonstrated by the Airmen who were operating under challenging environmental conditions, including mock gas attacks, disorienting gunfire simulations, and wounded personnel requiring aid,” said Hartov. “This is the kind of cross-training and mission support that blends New York State military organizations into a unified force.”
Morris echoed Hartov’s positive assessment of the two-day training event.
“This was an overwhelming success,” Morris said. “The vast majority of Airmen’s feedback indicating that it opened their eyes to the seriousness of these skills and was a valuable use of their already taxed time, with many expressing that they wished we did things like this more often.”
Donnell received positive feedback from several Airmen that went through the training. She summed up the ATSO exercise with her insight into the future.
“The world is changing,” Donnell said. “This type of training is important and supports our National Defense Strategy. It gives our Airmen the chance to experience the sights and sounds that they might see in a combat environment, while still in a training environment, so that they can go out there to fly, fight, and win.”