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Survivability FTX evolving for Airmen, leadership alike

by Nick Stubbs
Thunderbolt staff writer

The call goes out to Airmen in the field: Scud missiles are in the air and heading their way with an estimated time of arrival in 10 minutes. That's how long the troops in the field have to don their chem gear, cover vehicles with plastic tarps and secure their perimeter. Thunder Village comes alive as chemical boots go on, tape is wrapped on ankles and gas masks are pulled over faces during one of the monthly field training exercises designed to prepare personnel for nuclear, biological, chemical and conventional attack.

The training sessions began some two years ago, with the goal of every deployable person on base going through the two-day course, which includes a day and a half in the classroom and a half-day in the field. Since its inception, the training has been evolving, says Randy Ray, the readiness training manger who leads the exercises, incorporating news tactics and procedures that are resulting in better trained Airmen.

"It's come a long way," said Mr. Ray, who notes new AMC requirements, along with base procedures and department of defense changes are being integrated as training goes along. That's why he likes to see Airmen return for a second run through the exercise.

For many, said Mr. Ray, the FTX is the option they choose over chem warfare class, partly because they find the "hands-on" training in the field more instructive and interesting.

"They end up learning a lot more than just survivability," said Mr. Ray. "A lot of them who come out have never used a hand-held radio and they learn the proper way to communicate and the importance of communication in an emergency."

Mr. Ray said many groups take right to the field training, which involves setting up tents, establishing a security perimeter and performing sweeps to search for enemy attackers, weapons and contamination. By the time the exercise is over, Airmen learn the check lists used in a real threat, the alarms and MOP levels that will serve them in the event of an attack. But Airmen are not the only ones learning. Trainers and base officials and commanders learn more after nearly every exercise and the lessons of value are incorporated into the overall plan. An example of the good that has emerged is the Commander's Book, which provides the guidelines and structure for handling emergencies, said Mr. Ray.

And the learning and improving isn't likely to end.

"It's an ongoing process and we just keep getting better and more efficient," said Mr. Ray, who advises any Airman who has not been through the exercise to attend. For more information or to sign up for an FTX, contact your unit deployment manager.




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