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Guard training preps Airmen for state mission, builds unit cohesion

Senior Airman Jordan Fijal evacuates the Humvee simulator with assistance from Staff Sgt. John Tolerico, both from the 131st Maintenance Group, during Humvee rollover training at Camp Clark, near Nevada, Missouri, June 3, 2015.  Airmen were trained on procedures to avoid as well as team evacuation of the vehicle. 
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Traci Payne)

Senior Airman Jordan Fijal evacuates the Humvee simulator with assistance from Staff Sgt. John Tolerico, both from the 131st Maintenance Group, during Humvee rollover training at Camp Clark, near Nevada, Missouri, June 3, 2015. Airmen were trained on procedures to avoid as well as team evacuation of the vehicle. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Traci Payne)

Senior Master Sgt. Ken Huff, 131st Maintenance Squadron Avionics and Accessories Flight chief, demonstrates the operation of a Humvee rollover simulator as part of state emergency response training at Camp Clark, near Nevada, Missouri, June 3, 2015.  Approximately 60 Citizen-Airmen from the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing trained for state emergency response during the week of June 2-6.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Traci Payne)

Senior Master Sgt. Ken Huff, 131st Maintenance Squadron Avionics and Accessories Flight chief, demonstrates the operation of a Humvee rollover simulator as part of state emergency response training at Camp Clark, near Nevada, Missouri, June 3, 2015. Approximately 60 Citizen-Airmen from the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing trained for state emergency response during the week of June 2-6. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Traci Payne)

CAMP CLARK, Mo. -- Airmen with the 131st Maintenance Group learned the importance of teamwork and communication when they participated in Humvee rollover training as part of their annual training camp here June 3.

The training used a Humvee simulator to help Airmen avoid rollovers and to learn how to react if a rollover does occur. The simulator took four people at a time through a scenario where the entire vehicle turned over multiple times, letting the Airmen experience what it would feel like in a real-world incident.

Senior Master Sgt. Ken Huff, 131st Maintenance Squadron Avionics and Accessories Flight chief, operated the Humvee simulator and explained the benefit of experiencing the training scenario first hand.

"It's important to feel what it is like to hang upside down and have to work as a team to evacuate the vehicle," Huff said. "It's a real likelihood we could roll one of these."

Though the simulator is in a controlled environment and safety precautions are taken, it was still a challenging situation for the Airmen.

"It's so easy to get disoriented," said Staff Sgt. Jon Tolerico, an Airman with the 131st Communications Flight. "Figuring out which exit to get through when you are upside down is not an easy task. If that would have been a real-life situation, communication would be even more important."

The course instructor, Tech. Sgt. Pete Young, 131st Maintenance Squadron, first received the training last year during annual training. Before the majority of Airmen arrived at Camp Clark, he spent two days with the Army. Young said after this experience, he feels more ready accomplish the state mission.

"I definitely feel more prepared to work alongside the Army and feel just as capable," Young said. "Right now we are in a training environment, but in a real-world situation, the training will kick in."

During the second week of annual training, a new group of trainers will replace this week's team. Over multiple years of training, this will create a strong knowledge base to pull from, Young said.

"Being able to contribute to state emergency duty is a chance for us to give back and be part of the action that many of us signed up for," he added.

But becoming better prepared for an emergency isn't the exercise's only value.

The same training recently helped Tech. Sgt. Dave Abrams, a crew chief with the 131st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, in a real-life car accident. Abrams hydroplaned while driving, hit a ditch, and his car rolled over. Abrams had completed the Humvee rollover training as part of a 2014 Camp Clark exercise.

Abrams said the first thing he did was to make sure everyone was okay, which was part of the training.

"The training was really useful helping me keep a level head, remembering how disoriented you get when you flip upside down," said Abrams.

Being in a training environment encourages teamwork and builds camaraderie, said Staff Sgt. Joel Francisco, an aircraft metals technician with the 131st Maintenance Squadron.

"As a Guard member, it's so important to be exposed to this kind of training to prepare for disaster relief - you couldn't get this kind of training anywhere else," he said.

Francisco said he spent almost two years with the unit and did not know anyone he worked with until he attended annual training last year. Since then, he has gotten to know his fellow Airmen much better.

That is a critical part of the training plan, Young said.

"Teamwork is so important for unit cohesion," said Young. "Working well together and working as a team is part of the Guard culture."

More information on the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing can be found at http://www.131bw.ang.af.mil/. For more information on the Missouri National Guard, visit http://moguard.com/.