COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. –
Thirty-three Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Security Forces Squadron travelled here May 17 to strengthen their specialized skills during nine days of field exercises at Fort Carson.
According to Chief Master Sgt. Greg Myers, chief of the 123 SFS, the unit traveled to Colorado because it offers training facilities and a challenging environment not available back home.
“Fort Carson offers new, unique challenges that our members have to work through,” Myers said. “It's not the same training location that they’re used to, where they can forecast how everything’s going to go and predict the outcome.”
For example, the Guardsmen performed land navigation in an extremely challenging environment on top of a mountain.
“It was raining so hard that they couldn't see each other,” Myers said. “It really forced them to rely on team techniques.”
While here, the squadron trained in domestic operations and urban warfare environments in mountainous terrain and at higher elevations, forcing them to rely on peak physical fitness to complete the mission.
“This was an environment that was built for special operations,” Myers said. “So it was a tip-of-the-spear training situation that caused them to really use their skillsets to truly complete the mission.”
The unpredictable training environment helped prepare squadron members for a broad spectrum of real-world missions, Myers added — a key lesson due to the fact that the squadron often is tasked with missions no one envisioned and that they have not planned for.
“The operations tempo now at home is at the highest pace we've ever encountered; We're doing missions we had never expected to do,” he said.
Myers said the unit needs to continue to think outside of the box in a way that forces its members to enhance their training.
“This exercise really helped motivate our Airmen to understand the environments they could work in, point out weaknesses and how to better operate to turn weaknesses into strengths. Additionally, it gave them the chance to really come together as a team to learn how to truly rely on each other in austere environments.”
According to Tech. Sgt. Michael Leek, a fireteam member from the 123 SFS, the training was very different from what they see at home in Louisville.
“Taking guys from close to sea level and bringing them up here into the mountains and training at 6,000 feet — it really says a lot when you saw nobody quit or give up,” Leek said. “We all pushed for excellence and accomplished every task every day.”
Airman 1st Class Kiara Rager, a fireteam member from the 123 SFS, said the squadron’s NCOs went into great detail to make sure everyone learned the skills being taught, no matter how long it took.
“In technical school, you only really learn the basics,” she said. “Whereas here, they went in depth and everybody put in the effort to make sure you understood it a hundred percent.”
Myers said the event also helped build a “family-centered” environment and esprit de corps where Airmen can rely on each other personally and professionally.
“You learn to work through difficult times, love your brother and sister, and care for them as if they were your own,” he said. “These types of events push team building, self-care, and care for others to a new level. It’s something you can’t capture on training records.
“Our squadron motto is know your job, do your job and take care of the family. These events teach and create muscle memory for all three of those tasks.”
Airman 1st Class David McCray, a fireteam member from the 123 SFS, agreed.
“You have to trust everybody on your team,” he said. “You can't be one person trying to run everything. You have to fall back when your team members need you.”