England-based airmen, bound for Mideast, working on combat skills
August 24, 2005
RAF FELTWELL, England — Staff Sgt. Jasen Brouillette was pointing a training weapon at imagined targets in the windows of empty buildings and telling a group of airmen how it is done.
“Your weapon should be where your eyes are,” the 48th Security Forces Squadron noncommissioned officer said as he shifted his gaze and rifle from window to window. “Where I’m going to look, my gun’s looking with me.”
These were not typical instructions for an audience that included medics, mechanics and others who usually make their living far from the fight.
But these are atypical times.
“Life’s a little different for us than it used to be — sitting back and pushing jets off the flight line,” said Master Sgt. Preston New of the 48th Mission Support Squadron at RAF Lakenheath.
Nowadays, airmen deploy to the combat zone instead of a country near the combat zone. They guard convoys and live at bases smack in the middle of unfriendly territory in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They come under fire and are expected to return fire.
That’s why more than two dozen members of the 48th Fighter Wing were undergoing combat skills training last week at RAF Feltwell.
“The Air Force made a commitment to have our deployers get a level of training that they were not getting,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Ribler, commander of the 48th Security Forces Squadron, the unit providing the training.
The wing will send about 700 airmen and 10-15 aircraft to the Middle East next month as part of the scheduled Air and Space Expeditionary Force rotation. To that end, the collection of airmen from various specialties was being trained in such areas as convoy security, moving through an urban environment and weapons.
“The expressed goal is to have all deployers trained in these set skills,” said Ribler.
Staff Sgt. Ben Rushford of the 48th Security Forces Squadron said the training is malleable, changing as the threat downrange changes tactics and procedures.
Airmen returning from downrange make suggestions.
“It happens every time we have a group come back,” he said.
The training seems to be a big hit with the trainees.
“I’m very happy that we’re getting this training. It gives me more awareness of what to expect,” Staff Sgt. Jeannette Rosario of the 48th Medical Group said. “It gives me more confidence. Since I’ve been out of basic training, I’ve never done anything like this.”
The Air Force requires 19 hours of this training, but Rushford said they provide 24 hours of instruction over the three days.
“We actually get a lot of requests to make it longer,” he said.