Total Force: Eagle, Liberty Wings hold ground together, prove abilities to wage combat

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
  • 436th AW Public Affairs
Once fine tuned and sharpened with razor-edge precision, an ordinary axe became something magnificent during the Middle Ages. The battleaxe, a choice weapon due to its inexpensive cost and abundant availability, was a dangerous weapon on the battle fields of long ago.

The methods of warfare have evolved drastically over the years and weapons like swords and battleaxes have been replaced with modern armaments.

Still, in the spirit of an exercise partially named for the mighty battleaxe, the men and women of the combined 436th and 512th Airlift Wings proved to be more fined tuned and more precise than any weapon yielded during the 'battles of old' this week, when they showed their abilities to survive and operate in a combat environment during Team Dover's Haunted House Battle Ax exercise.

An Airman's ability to survive and operate during an attack was the focal point of the training, which was designed to prepare Airmen for the upcoming Operational Readiness Inspection in July.

One of many finely-tuned and razor-sharp Airmen, Staff Sgt. Michael Bravo, 436th Aerial Port Squadron, shared his experiences during the exercise.

"This was a great refresher," said Sergeant Bravo, whose uniform was completely soaked with sweat. The exercise scenario, which had required the sergeant to dawn full MOPP gear, now allowed him to down grade. He removed his gas mask and entertained an interview.

"We were thrown into the mix several times - but, responded quickly and with a good sense of urgency," continued Sergeant Bravo, who knew urgency is what the dreaded Exercise Evaluation Team wanted to see. "We made some mistakes, and once even cordoned off an area much too large. Still, that's what we were here for - to learn."

Sergeant Bravo said the first half day, the Haunted House, was mainly briefings and class room-style training sessions and the afternoon, the Battle Ax portion, was reserved for applying what was learned.

"Even seasoned Airmen - like me, who have been through several exercises added additional experience," he said. "The scenarios were difficult at times, which was why they were such a good learning experience, especially for the new Airmen."

While the players Monday and Tuesday were mainly active-duty Airmen, those who participated Saturday and Sunday were primarily Reservists.

Like the Eagle Wing's scenarios, the Liberty Wing members simulated a foreign country deployment as evaluators graded them on how well they defended themselves and their assets against enemy aggressors.

"It's very difficult to maintain a civilian job, fly missions, accomplish ground training events and prepare for the ORI; there just doesn't seem to be enough days in the month to accomplish everything," said Senior Master Sgt. Kelly Devine, 709th Airlift Squadron. "The training was very beneficial, not only for the inspection, but more importantly, in the event of an actual situation."

As a six-month exercise scenario unfolded over a few short hours, participants learned how to prepare for an attack and what to do during and after an attack.

Battle Ax coordinators divided Airmen into four different tents, and the servicemembers had to operate and defend their areas.

"Personnel were deliberately separated from members of their own organization and assigned to different tents," said Lt. Col. Chris Cote, the 512th Airlift Wing readiness cell exercise planner. "We found that people from differing backgrounds excelled in one area but were not as proficient in others. With a variety of experience in different tents, they were able to work together and combine their knowledge to meet all challenges."

Some of the obstacles included filling sand bags to surround the tents, learning radio call-in procedures and recognizing unexploded ordnance. In addition to assembling impromptu medical teams to aide the injured, Airmen also experienced a chemical invasion.

As simulated life-threatening green smoke seeped into the tents, members had only a few seconds to protect themselves with their gas masks.

"The training was very realistic," said Sergeant Devine. "And, the need for the training was evident as the day progressed."

Having learned their strengths and weaknesses, both Eagle and Liberty Wing Airmen now have the tools to hone their war-fighting skills during the coming months' exercises.
"The Haunted House Battle Ax exercise will be the first of many exercises we will conduct in 2008 to prepare for our summer ORI," said Maj. Derek Salmi, 436th Airlift Wing lead ORI planner. "This will be a great way to kick-start our ORI prep by focusing on our ability to both survive and operate in a chemical environment - an important skill that the (Inspector General) team will be looking at in July."

For Team Dover, there is an added twist as the base is made up of two separate wings who will train and fight as one. This is the second time the Eagle and Liberty Wings tested their abilities together, the first was a deployment exercise, which the wings conquered together in Nov. 2007.

Now, the wings must work together continually to fine tune their war fighting abilities for the Summer ORI.

"When we deploy to the ORI, we won't be the active-duty 436th Wing or the Reserve 512th, we'll simply be the 805th Air Expeditionary Wing and represent Team Dover (as such)," said Major Salmi. "(For that reason), each month between now and July we will conduct dual wing exercises to improve our total-force operations."

The Haunted House Battle Ax was a major benefit to Team Dover, said Major Salmi. The ORI is about 200 days away and it is time for all Team Dover Airmen to focus on and train for
the inspection.

(Master Sgt. Veronica Aceveda contributed to this article)