Training for deployed operations

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Josh Smith
  • 7th Weather Squadron
The Global War On Terror has changed the way the United States fights. Today, it is more common to have Airmen ride in a convoy and, in some instances, run those convoys. Battlefield Airmen providing weather support to the Army go where the Army goes, and sometimes, a convoy is all an Airman has to meet the mission.
Imagine traveling in that convoy and a roadblock appears ahead with locals approaching the vehicle. Knowing what to do in this situation can make all the difference. Airmen attending the 7th Weather Squadron's Cadre Focus training, operated by Detachment 7 in Grafenwöhr, Germany, now have the training to meet stressful battlefield situations. Cadre Focus provided five days of training with lessons and practical exercises on ground combat skills, tactical meteorological equipment, and weather operations Airmen use while supporting Army operations during deployments. Teamwork is emphasized since most Airmen attending Cadre Focus will deploy together to either a Joint Operations Center or in support direct of Army units.
The training recently relocated from Heidelberg, Germany, three hours east to Grafenwöhr - home of Det. 7 and the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command. JMTC has pre-established training facilities for training joint/multinational forces in tactical combat skills. Moving the training to Grafenwöhr aligns the 7th WS into the Army training environment and provides access to existing training opportunities available through the Army. Cadre Focus was created to train weather forecasters from the 7th WS who were unable to train with the Army as part of ramp-up exercises for Army customers going downrange. This "gap" in training is caused by the difference between the Army's one year deployment cycle and the Air Force's 120 rotations. This training closes a gap and also is open to all USAFE weather forecasters providing support to the Army warfighter while deployed.
Instructors begin the week refreshing students on the combat skills soldiers use every day, but for which battlefield Airmen may not be as proficient. This training helps ensure that if faced with combat, weather personnel can function as an integral part of the combat team, rather than a liability. Among the combat skills taught, students learn how to recognize and react to improvised explosive devices; convoy operations; Central Command rules of engagement and use of force; self aid and buddy care and some combat life saving skills; map reading and land navigation; iridium satellite phone operation; enhanced weapons training on the Army's state-of-the-art electronic firing range; and preventive maintenance check and services for tactical vehicles. Most of these classes build on training already received and refresh procedures that may not be used in operations outside the deployed environment.
A highlight of the combat skills phase is the convoy training provided by instructors from the Small Arms Basic Operator Trainers Academy. These instructors are responsible for the Army's Master Gunner course and Convoy Live Fire exercises. Training includes convoy strategies and dismounted/engagement techniques on how and when to engage the enemy. SABOT Academy instructors are well versed in small arms techniques and bring some of the latest lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Their training can exponentially increase our Airmen's safety.
Along with the convoy skills, students honed their shooting skills at Vilseck's Engagement Skills Trainer, an electronic firing range where Airmen train with weapons in different battle scenarios. This is the same equipment many Army units are using to prepare for downrange fighting.
Utilizing training from professionals that are already knowledgeable and experienced is paramount. Self aid and buddy care along with map reading and land navigation is provided by Tactical Air Control Party Airmen from the 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron, Vilseck, Germany. Imparting their tactical skills and experiences operating alongside the Army provides valuable insight to Cadre Focus trainees.
In addition to combat skills, students train on supporting combat operations in a Joint Operation Center and in a Battlefield Weather Team. Whether Airmen are providing support directly to the CJTF commander, or supporting a Corps or lower level Combat Brigade, the course includes training for all aspects of the deployed environment. The students undergo a day of simulated JOC and BWT operations. Students brief the CJTF commander, create weather products, react to urgent requests for UH-60 medical evacuation and close air support, produce tactical observations, and troubleshoot tactical meteorological equipment.
A large portion of training also consists of re-familiarization of tactical weather equipment. For this portion of the training, the course employs experts from the Weather Support System Cadre, Robins AFB, Ga., who spend a few days imparting their vast knowledge of tactical systems and downrange experience. The WSSC conducts briefings on the TMQ-53 with the iridium kit upgrade, T-VSAT and NTFS. Their knowledge of common system failures and troubleshooting techniques is essential to ensuring our battlefield Airmen understand tactical weather systems.
One of the most important aspects of Cadre Focus is teamwork. Students attend with the same personnel with whom they will likely deploy. This produces a great opportunity for forecasters to develop unit cohesion. It also gives members deploying to different locations time to put faces with names. Teamwork is paramount in any unit and this certainly is true downrange. Training as the deployed team helps define roles and develop unit cohesion.
Battlefield weather technicians have a unique mission and not only need to maintain their weather forecasting skills, but also be proficient in combat skills. The 7th Weather Squadron's Cadre Focus provides the opportunity for members to hone both combat and tactical weather skills - giving forecasters a boost of confidence and the tools needed prior to deploying into a combat zone.