374th Airlift Wing emphasizes fundamentals in readiness drills
April 23, 2005
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — After a recent lackluster exercise performance, the 374th Airlift Wing is preaching wartime fundamentals ahead of next year’s Operational Readiness Inspection by Pacific Air Forces.
Thursday, a few dozen troops marched through a personal-decontamination line, set up after a simulated chemical attack. It was part of a three-day evaluation of drills and procedural reviews.
“We’d reached a peak in our performance,” said Col. Mike Koster, the wing’s inspector general. “The only way to get beyond that was to get back to the basics. It’s re-energized everyone.
“Just like a football team, you’ve got to practice before you can reach the Super Bowl. Our Super Bowl is in March. … We know our drills. We’re practicing the plays right now.”
Decked in full mission-oriented protective-posture gear, called MOPP, about 60 airmen — randomly selected from each of Yokota’s six groups — took part in the decontamination drill, stopping at different stations.
Staff Sgt. David Oslonian, 374th Civil Engineer Squadron, was among a handful of evaluators. “The stages are set up for airmen to get rid of one piece of equipment at a time,” he said.
The base’s chemical contamination-avoidance team — 40 troops from various wing organizations — monitored the line. Oslonian said inspectors primarily were looking at the best use of space.
“They did a fantastic job here,” he said, pointing to the old transportation yard behind Building 514, used for the drill. “The more area you can use, the better you can control the contamination.
“The lineup went pretty fast today but the actual process was a little slow. … We have some new members on the team.”
Tech. Sgt. Arturo Broughton, 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron, emerged from the line, pulled off his gas mask and leaned against a wall. “It’s very real-world,” he said. “The temperature isn’t that bad out here, but going through the stations is an experience we should all go through to make sure we’re ready for the mission.”
Wednesday, airmen rehearsed giving themselves atropine injections, which must be administered in the event of nerve-agent contamination. Later Thursday, sirens sounded as troops practiced taking cover from missile and mortar attacks.
Afterward, inspection teams tested for contamination across the base, said Col. Doug Kreulen, wing vice commander.
He was first to enter the decontamination line. “It gives you a great perspective,” he said. “We’re grading ourselves more critically now. The whole organization gets graded on how well those 10 people [from each group] do. We’re now holding commanders accountable for their units … the scores will tell us if they’re taking this seriously.”
About 3,000 airmen were recalled at 4:45 a.m. Wednesday for the evaluation’s start. From that group, 685 were tested on the Airman’s Manual and sent to a deployment line. Just a handful lacked updated shot records this time, Kreulen said, unlike a few months ago.
“You’re going to die if you’re not able to perform under these circumstances,” he said. “Also, you don’t want to deploy someone who’s not going to be ready to perform downrange. You don’t want to be a liability.”