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An airman assumes firing position outside his vehicle during convoy training Friday at Osan Air Base. The Air Force’s 554th Red Horse Squadron trained about 100 airmen how to respond in various types of attacks on their convoys.

An airman assumes firing position outside his vehicle during convoy training Friday at Osan Air Base. The Air Force’s 554th Red Horse Squadron trained about 100 airmen how to respond in various types of attacks on their convoys. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

An airman assumes firing position outside his vehicle during convoy training Friday at Osan Air Base. The Air Force’s 554th Red Horse Squadron trained about 100 airmen how to respond in various types of attacks on their convoys.

An airman assumes firing position outside his vehicle during convoy training Friday at Osan Air Base. The Air Force’s 554th Red Horse Squadron trained about 100 airmen how to respond in various types of attacks on their convoys. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

An airman rushes into position to meet an attack on his convoy during a mock battle drill.

An airman rushes into position to meet an attack on his convoy during a mock battle drill. (Franklin FIsher / S&S)

Airmen review fine points of convoy security. The training covered what to do if their convoy encounters protesters, homemade roadside bombs, an ambush, sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenade attacks and other threats.

Airmen review fine points of convoy security. The training covered what to do if their convoy encounters protesters, homemade roadside bombs, an ambush, sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenade attacks and other threats. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — The airmen in the convoy had little doubt the man sprinting toward their vehicles Friday morning was an insurgent who meant the American infidels harm. Wild-eyed, arms flailing as he ran, he kept screaming something they couldn’t understand.

Within seconds he’d reached a Humvee and lunged waist-deep into an open window.

“You’re all dead!” he announced in English, adding with what suddenly was a very American smile, that he was meant to be a suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives.

The venue was not Iraq but Osan Air Base in South Korea, and the man was not an insurgent suicide bomber but a member of the Air Force’s 554th Red Horse Squadron taking part in live-fire convoy training.

Red Horse units, which build airfields and buildings and do other construction for the Air Force, are comparable to the Navy construction battalions known as Seabees.

About 100 airmen took the training Thursday and Friday among the buildings, lots and work yards of the squadron compound. It taught them what to do if their convoy encounters protesters, homemade roadside bombs, an ambush, sniper fire, rocket-propelled grenade attacks and other threats.

Being convoy-savvy is especially important for Red Horse airmen, who typically travel overland to carry out their mission.

“We do a lot of convoying … we put in a lot of road miles all over Korea, so it’s very important training because it’s directly tied to our mission,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Slocum, a squadron member.

Before actual mock battle drills in convoy, the airmen received several hours of instruction and other preparation, said the project’s officer-in-charge, 1st Lt. Josh Kuper.

It covered “what to do before you go on a convoy, what to do when … your convoy’s attacked or encounters a hostile situation or a multiple situation. What to do in a convoy after you finish up … how to get out of a hostile situation, then how to regroup and press on and finish your mission.”

The airmen also were shown photos during instruction that drew on “lessons learned” from U.S. military convoys in Iraq.

The mock battle drill itself entailed six situations: how to identify improvised explosive devices while taking small arms fire; identifying a bomb planted in a vehicle; how, while under fire, to get airmen to safety who’ve been wounded in an attack on the convoy; what to do when they encounter roadside protesters; how to dismount and lay down a base of fire when attacked; and how to handle a complex ambush, Kuper said.

This week’s training gave Senior Airman Beverly Hargrave her first convoy live-fire training.

“It gives us, as airmen, more practice in a hostile situation,” she said. “It gives you a lot more hands-on, more practice. So you can perform better.”

Hargrave, who has served in Iraq, thinks this week’s training can help her if she deploys there again.

“I’ve been there once before,” she said. “So I know that I’d probably be in a convoy at least once. And all the training and practice that I’m having here in Korea at Red Horse will greatly impact the way that I react in contingency situations. All my practice will pay off in the long run, and hopefully, we’ll get through safely.”


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