131st Bomb Wing Citizen Airmen attend 'realistic' training to be prepared to help Missouri neighbors

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nathan Dampf
  • 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
More than 100 Airmen with the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing travelled to Camp Clark here this week to participate in a realistic training exercise to prepare them for state emergency duty.

The five-day training included orienteering and truck driving exercises with the Missouri Army National Guard, leadership courses, medical response training, and sandbagging practice.

"During my 2011 SED experience to the floods in Carrolton, (Missouri) we just patched the sandbag wall," said Senior Airman Ryan Marlar, a munitions systems journeyman with the 131st Maintenance Squadron. "But here, we learned how and why to build a sandbag wall based on what the flood calls for and received other helpful training."

According to the Department of Defense's Defense Support of Civil Authorities handbook, Marlar and other Guardsmen can be activated by the governor to assist with disasters that are storm-related, man-made or chemical. The training provided additional insight to the Airmen, who could be called to help their Missouri neighbors in any emergency that requires immediate state aid.

Marlar was a full-time student at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, when he received a call at 10:00 p.m., one evening asking him to be at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri the next morning at 6:00 a.m.

"We weren't told where we were going or why," said Marlar. "When you join the Guard, we know we have two days per month and two weeks per year (to train). But, actually helping your neighbors doing the state assistance is definitely a fulfilling experience."

Such an experience is not uncommon, said Senior Master Sgt. John Chaffee, propulsion shop supervisor with the 131st MXS. Chaffee has been with the Missouri Air National Guard for 28 years and was called to assist with state emergency duty during the flood of 1993 in St. Louis. He used that experience during this training to give the Airmen here some useful tips if they are called to help.

"Formal training can be important to give the Airmen an idea before being thrown into that situation," said Chaffee. "As their supervisors, we have to provide them with an understanding and background of SED and how the process works. That way, they are better prepared when the time comes."

In addition to being prepared, the organizers of the program helped Airmen understand the importance of leadership within an emergency duty.

"Our Airmen need the tools to support both our federal mission and our state mission," said Chief Master Sgt. Barb Johnson, superintendent for the 131st Maintenance Operations Flight. "We have to have leaders who can react on their feet to get the job done. This training, and the training with our Army counterparts, will help us during those missions."

Preparing for this exercise was no easy task, said Col. Kimbra Sterr, commander of the 131st Maintenance Group.

"It's difficult to prepare for a state emergency duty when you have no idea what could happen with a real natural disaster," said Sterr. "The training this week seemed to educate our Airmen on a variety of levels. And, the training organizers and our Airmen faced that challenge head-on and thrived."

State emergency duties can vary greatly. But, one thing that is certain is the cooperation with joint forces, said one event organizer.

"We decided to set up the event as if we had a state emergency," said Senior Master Sgt. Ken Huff, accessories and avionics flight chief with the 131st MXS. "We involved our support staff and medical team. We outprocessed as if we were being deployed. And, they're able to build camaraderie with other agencies they'd be working with, like the Army. This whole event is very real-world."

Last year, nearly 200 Airmen and Soldiers were deployed by Gov. Jay Nixon to help with various state emergency duty responses. Just years prior, more than 370 Airmen and Soldiers assisted with the tornado in Joplin, Missouri. Exercises like this will make the Guard more capable to deal with similar disasters, said Huff.

"We're having some great success working with the Army," said Huff. "They're training with us. They're cooking with us. We're driving Army trucks. We're building camaraderie, and those relationships will pay off in the future."

Some said the relationships are already paying off. The Army National Guard's 1138th Transportation Company provided map-reading and orienteering courses; driving lessons in large convoy semi-trucks; and time within a simulator for Airmen to experience what it is like to overturn a Humvee.

Two supervisors are taking exceptional advantage of the budding partnership. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Kim Young and Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Beverly Walters were the chief cooks for the exercise. Both enjoyed the experience, and admitted to learning from each other.

"It's been excellent," said Walters, chief cook with the 1138th Transportation Company. "Although we have similar missions, we have different plans. We've been able to play on each other's different experiences, and it's been a smashing success."

Walters, a citizen Soldier from St. Louis, Missouri, came here with three Soldiers prepared to feed 115 other Soldiers. Young, a citizen Airman from Fredericktown, Missouri, brought a team of three Airmen to support more than 80 Airmen in training. While Young and Walters are in separate branches, they have deployed a joint strategy with their teams to accomplish the mission.

"It's been one team - one fight," said Young. "It has been the theme all week. It's encouraging, and we look forward to doing this again in the future."

Also looking to expand their role in the state emergency duty training is the 131st Medical Group out of Whiteman. Maj. Joseph Randolph, who provided "extreme" real-world, mass casualty experience for the Airmen, hopes to make a stronger presence in future years.

Randolph and his team used moulage medical make-up techniques to create simulated injuries that resemble those suffered during a natural disaster, such as severe cuts, scrapes, broken bones or embedded objects in the body.

"We worked to make the injuries the most realistic so our troops know how to respond and treat them in case of a catastrophe," said Randolph, a nurse with the 131st MDG. "These Airmen are not going to know what they could see if a real tornado hit. This exercise is designed to test them and their reactions."

The moulage training exercise was a huge hit with the Airmen. But, it is the overall experience that has all members of the 131st feeling ready when they are called to help with the state emergency mission.

"It's been a great learning experience," said Marlar. "In SED, you live with people you don't usually live with, or you don't always have the right supplies. This experience has been excellent for preparing us as a team to work toward our united goal."