Airmen get training in fighting on the ground
CAMP VIRGINIA, Kuwait — All it takes is some Army weapons, several classes and a group of National Guard soldiers from El Paso, Texas, to teach airmen how to be “hooah!”
Nearly 300 airmen from the 732nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron are learning major soldiering skills during a two-phase course, designed to get the Army and the Air Force on the same fighting page.
The airmen are separated into four groups of about 70 and are taught in separate weeklong shifts.
First, the engineers get weapons training, classes on leading troops and refreshers on first aid. Then they go to Camp Udairi, about an hour away, to a live-fire range where they shoot M249 squad automatic weapons and .50-caliber machine guns, and take a course in convoy operations.
“Even though this is an engineer unit, they’re still going to be moving from point A to point B. That means we all have the same mission: to stay alive,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Bonet, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Task Force Victory, the Army trainers out of the 1836th Transportation Company from Texas.
For this reason, Airman 1st Class Shannon Gramling, who is in the third group of airmen being trained, said she’s glad to get the opportunity to learn the Army’s methods of survival.
“This gives me knowledge on self defense, group defense and company defense,” Gramling said.
“It allows us to defend ourselves if we get in a situation where we come under fire.”
Air Force Staff Sgt. Erik Caddick, a firetruck mechanic with the squadron, said the training also allows for the Air Force to assist the Army if it ever came down to it.
“Now we’re familiar with their weapons,” he said. “This helps the different services become integrated. They are providing good training.”
The 732nd ECES is an Air Force unit out of Missouri, Washington and North Dakota that is currently headquartered in Balad, Iraq.
Once the unit is trained on convoy security, it will make its way to the Abu Ghraib prison in an integrated convoy to begin demolition work.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tasked the Air Force to support the Army in many areas, including convoy security, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Jeff Vinger, commander of the 732nd ECES.
“This type of total forces training is excellent. It’s basic soldier skills beyond what an airman typically gets,” he said.
Sgt. Theresa Hardy, who teaches the convoy security portion of the training, said the airmen are very receptive to the training and seem to enjoy working along side the Army.
“Out there,” she said, “we’re all Americans and that’s all that matters.”