120th Sustainment Services Shine at Silver Flag
By Master Sgt. Crystal Hoffman, 120th Sustainment Services Flight
/ Published March 04, 2016
GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Fifteen Airmen from the Montana Air National Guard's 120th Sustainment Services Flight and three Airmen from the 219th REDHORSE Squadron traveled via C-130 to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga. to participate in Silver Flag Feb. 20-26.
The Airmen honed their skills at engaging in real-world base support from preparing and opening a bare-base operation to transitioning to a sustainment operation.
Each year, services members train on home station requirements to include shelter assembly, field food service, force bed down, mortuary affairs, search and recovery, and functions related to contingency planning, accounting, and command and control. These skills are then put to the test in a simulated deployed environment and refined to ensure Services members are ready to deploy in support of a bare base operation. The mission is simple: plan, prepare and execute.
The motto "First in, last out" is not unfamiliar to veteran members of the team and new members got a chance to experience it first hand during the training event.
The days were long as personnel endured not only classroom lectures and table top exercises but also engaged in hands on experiences to ensure knowledge and competency at setting up base services.
Class members were separated into two sections: TCAT-I for staff sergeants and below and TCAT-II for technical sergeants and above, to include the command element.
While TCAT-I students did engage in some combined elements of training, such as field feeding operations, their focus was more on the physical labor required to set up a bare base. They engaged in instructor-led experiential training in shelter erection, food operation setup and more in-depth search and recovery components.
Students learned set up and use of field kitchens for initial support and ongoing sustainment past 30 days. While the junior Airmen practiced those life-sustaining skills building, while the higher ranking element endured learning essential components of field accounting, contracting and budgeting. This entailed how to work with contracting office personnel to order equipment and supplies to sustain the mission and how to prepare a budget with both non-appropriated funds and appropriated, congressional, funds.
Table top exercises included how to prepare and submit an AF Form 9 to requisition supplies, and field accounting scenarios to determine proper accountability of assets and funds.
Throughout the week Silver Flag Cadre divided training into three areas of focus.
The first area was testable material on knowledge gained through past home station experience and current classroom curriculum. Groups were often found scattered throughout the compound, after hours, preparing for the final exam.
The second area was group projects designed to prepare deployment brief for the command and control element. Each group was based upon their assigned functional area: Food, Fitness/Recreation, Lodging, Mortuary and Management.
Group members engaged in research using provided scenarios and references, such as the Prime RIBS Managers Guide, to determine what assets and personnel would be needed to sustain a mission beyond 30 days. This information was then briefed to C2 members and evaluated by Cadre to determine effectiveness of mission planning. Finally, Airmen simulated deploying and executed a deployment exercise.
Each assigned tasking and project was graded on a Green/Yellow/Red scale by Cadre, with all components receiving an overall "Green" for readiness and execution. During this exercise component, tasks were re-implemented such as building a field kitchen, determining personnel and equipment requirements and then ordering them through the Unit Control Center and identifying mission requirements such as bedding down a diverted airplane or engaging in a search and recovery for a "downed plane." The mortuary team processed remains and took the lead on the search and recovery component.
Fitness and Recreation personnel had the added task of preparing and executing a fitness or recreation event on three separate evenings to enhance morale and fitness.
Each task required effective communication via proper channels and the Cadre were on standby to identify, and exploit, any observed weaknesses in the operational process. This included taking opportunities to acquire critical equipment such as weapons, radios or sensitive information.
The combined team consisted of a total of 34 personnel from California, Maryland and Montana Air National Guard units worked collaboratively to execute the mission and identify enemy operatives attempting to infiltrate the camp.
The team did such an extraordinary job the Cadre continually scrambled to add taskings and scenarios, increasing objectives for mission completion.
By the end of the first day the food team was nearly one hour ahead of time in completing their first requirement of establishing the field kitchen. The Cadre's response: initiate an IED that cuts off their escape route to bunker safety.
Master Sgt. Crystal Hoffman and Staff Sgt. Mike Johnston led the food service team's escape and notified the unit control center, which then caused the Cadre to rethink their attack strategy.
As the exercise resumed on the second day multiple new scenarios were engaged and the class continued to shine, completing tasks on time, or ahead of time, and avoiding enemy subterfuge.
A successful end of the exercise came about when the enemy Cadre turned one airman traitor, who infiltrated the camp and help destroy 25 personnel but the Emergency Operations Center did not fall prey.
Overall, the exercise was deemed a complete "Green" and the Cadre followed up the activities with a positive out brief acknowledging the success and tenacity demonstrated as the class worked as a whole for the greater good.
For some, this was the first experience with force support combat training and for others, it was the last. In a real world scenario, much more would be accomplished to include a robust base and eventual teardown; all of which would not be possible without the efforts and planning of Force Support/Sustainment Services personnel.
For now, the training exercised both at home station and Silver Flag ensures the Airmen of 120th AW/FSS are continually ready to Fly, Fight and Win.