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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Air Force will launch a new training course in December to teach airmen combat first aid, heavy weapons training, and how to survive “outside the wire” in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The service is starting the Common Battlefield Airman Training Course because up to 10,000 airmen each year are now deployed to those combat zones, where they conduct missions and work on bases where the possibility of attack is a constant threat, according to Col. Scott Bethel, deputy director of operations for technical training at Air Education and Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas.

“We have to be able to defend ourselves,” he said.

Skills covered in the course will be those more commonly associated with ground forces. Until the war on terror began, the Air Force had few personnel who needed ground combat skills, outside of the service’s small special operations community.

But as deployment tempos strain the Army and Marine Corps, the Air Force has been asked to contribute thousands of airmen to help drive trucks, provide base security, run interrogations, and perform other tasks that are not part of the service’s normal job.

The so-called Air Force “in lieu of” or “ILO” forces are receiving ground combat training now, Bethel said, but it is piecemeal and sometimes informal.

With CBAT, the Air Force will “consolidate and standardize” that training, he said.

The class will start as a five-day training session on Dec. 7 at Camp Bullis, a U.S. Army training site near San Antonio, Bethel said. The Air Force hopes to move 1,200 airmen each year through the five-day CBAT class.

Air Force plans call for CBAT to expand to 20 days in 2010, and for as many as 14,000 airmen to pass through its doors every year by 2013, Bethel said.

The 20-day course at CBAT will include physical fitness training, self-defense, advanced weapons training, combat medical skills, integrated base defense classes, land navigation, and tactical field operations, according to Lt. Col. John Bukowinski, chief of the technical training division at the training command.

The shorter, five-day “bridge” course will be a similar but compressed version of the longer class, Bukowinski said.

The Air Force is studying three candidates for the permanent CBAT school: Moody Air Force Base in Georgia; Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana; and Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee

Service officials hope to announce the location of the permanent CBAT training area by January 2008, and open its doors on Oct. 10, 2010, Bethel said.

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