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Take advantage of AF training; take it seriously

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- It was just after 6 a.m. when I finished receiving the latest intelligence briefing, and the outlook didn't look too promising. Both our primary and alternate routes were "red", which meant we had suspected improvised explosive devices along the way. So as I approached my team of seven soldiers, six marines, four Airman, and four seaman, I realized the seriousness of the task at hand. I was about to lead 21 combat-ready troops on a convoy in the middle of Afghanistan. So why was I, an Air Force "finance" officer, given this tremendous responsibility? I thought Security Forces or Logistical Readiness Officers did that sort of thing. The answer is simple, that's what the Air Force needed me to do that day. Luckily for me, I spent a few years as a Security Forces Defender, and was assigned as a convoy team leader earlier in my career. But what if I hadn't? Could I lead these soldiers when they needed me the most? Could I direct team movements and lead them out of danger? Did I know my chemical warfare, unexploded ordinance training, and self aid buddy care? Could I hit my target if forced to use my weapon? I should, as I've been trained on all of these courses by the finest instructors. But here lies my concern. I can't tell you how many of these courses I've attended just to see people "get through" the course and not really learn to apply the skills. In essence, they are just checking the box because, "Hey, I'm never going to use this, I'm just a support troop". 

There is a great program available to our deploying team members called Combat Airman. I had the opportunity to attend a similar class taught by our impressive Civil Engineering team that covered convoy movements, weapons training, UXOs, and other critical skills that I put to use during my deployment experience. 

My point is this, take advantage of the training we have, and take it seriously. You never know when you will need to rely on it, and I'm not just talking about in combat situations. On a recent trip back from Maxwell AFB, I witnessed another Airman use his training to perfection. I was relaxing on the plane, enjoying a movie when all of the sudden I heard an elderly lady stand up and scream, "Someone help me, my mother is not breathing!" A call immediately went out over the intercom looking for a doctor. I looked ahead about six rows and saw a lady slumped over and about to fall out into the aisle. As I unbuckled my seatbelt and hoped for a doctor to respond, I saw a fellow Airman I knew from my class at Maxwell run up to assist her. He lifted her out of her seat and laid her down in the aisle as I arrived to help. As neither of us were trained medics, we relied on the skills we had picked up in self aid buddy care classes over the years. Thankfully, we didn't have to do anything heroic that day; however, my friend did an amazing job handling the situation and followed the steps we learned about in class perfectly. Again, you never know when the situation will present itself to use your training, but trust me, you want to be prepared for that moment. 

And while I didn't have to fire my weapon in Afghanistan, I heard shots fired in our direction on several occasions and prepared once again to rely on my training. I'm confident our experts here provide you with everything you need to know to be successful during contingency operations; it's up to you to take it to heart and make the best of it. See you down range.