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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Airmen with the 35th Fighter Wing are about to go into exercise mode again.

The wing holds a quarterly exercise, and this time, airmen will pretend to deploy to a combat zone as part of the Initial Response Readiness Exercise, which was to begin Sunday and run through Friday.

The exercise begins with a phone call: “It’s time to go,” signaling an airman to grab his combat gear and report to the personnel deployment line for out-processing.

Officials with the wing’s plans, programs and inspections script the exercise based on the nature of the mission and threat at Misawa and send out teams of exercise evaluators from various units to grade the wing’s performance.

“Our main objective is to get our personnel and our cargo to the deployed location within the allotted time limits,” said Master Sgt. Kevin Nies, superintendent of wing medical inspections.

Depending on one’s Unit Type Code, which identifies job specialties, an airman and his team could have one day or three, for example, to get to the deployed location, Nies said.

“Each UTC has a specific timeline of when they have to be in a conflict area,” Nies said, noting that more specific information is classified.

The wing will be tested on whether and how well it meets those guidelines. Airmen will simulate loading personnel and cargo on aircraft, but if the conflict area is a three- hour flight from Misawa, “they’ll sit in the hangar for three hours until they were to land,” Nies said.

Exercise evaluators will check mobility folders that list, among other items, whether immunizations are updated and if weapons training is complete. Airmen also could have their bags inspected.

“One of the evaluators may say, ‘Empty your bag. I want to see what’s in your bag,’” Nies said. Though Air Force personnel at Misawa are always supposed to have their deployment bags ready at a moment’s notice, some don’t, Nies said.

“You have some people who don’t have the proper rank” on their uniforms or an adequate supply of toilet paper, he said, listing two examples.

“Your mobility bag should be packed and should never be touched,” Nies reminded airmen. “When they say ‘It’s time to go,’ it’s time to go.”

Other functions to be evaluated include reception and bed-down of forces and safe haven.

During a real conflict, stateside troops could be sent to Misawa to backfill for deploying airmen, Nies said, so the exercise tests how well the wing processes those individuals into their assigned units.

Master Sgt. Shawn Jarnigan, superintendent of 35th Mission Support Group inspections, said airmen from other bases might deploy to Misawa Air Base, depending on the nature of the conflict.

Misawa also could serve as a “safe haven” in war, hosting an aircraft full of family members flown out of a conflict area while it refuels en route to the States, Nies said. In that instance, the base could be tasked to provide a translator, chaplain, financial expert and others to assist family members.

Nies said many of the new airmen will be participating in this week’s exercise, one reason the wing conducts these drills four times a year.

“There’s nothing worse than deploying someone out and they don’t know how to wear a gas mask,” Nies said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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