Silver Flag Exercise offers civil engineers unique training

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Eric Peterson
  • 120th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Montana Air National Guard and United States Air Force civil engineering specialists deployed to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. to participate in a week-long Silver Flag training opportunity Jan. 31.

Silver Flag consists of seven days of intense Air Force civil engineer specialty training which culminates in a 12-hour exercise that tests the Airmen in such diverse career areas as fire protection, electrical power production and pavements and construction.

In a cooperative effort, 19 members of the 120th Civil Engineer Squadron, four personnel assigned to the MTANG's 219th RED HORSE Squadron and seven members of the 341st Civil Engineer Squadron from Malmstrom Air Force Base traveled as a group to participate in the exercise.

Combining the three local units to train together allowed them to utilize military airlift to fly to Tyndall. Cost savings was not the only advantage to the joint deployment. The Silver Flag exercise also allows the members to mentor each other and share professional experiences.
Airmen operate out of tents set up in the bare base location and endure pre-attack and post-attack training scenarios. Newer members of the squadron expand their career knowledge and skills participating in these exercises.

"I think Silver Flag gives the younger Airmen who've not deployed a chance to learn about the austere environment and what to expect when they get put into that environment," said 2nd Lt. Aaron Jewett, who serves as OIC of the 120th CES Emergency Management Flight and is also the deployment OIC. "They'll learn to be innovative when using their resources and how to problem solve without being able to call downtown to get a supply of materials if they need them. That's the make-do, can-do attitude that CE is great about."

The exercise also offers the civil engineers the chance to experience unique training opportunities provided by the location's specialized equipment and austere environment.

"A lot of the equipment that they are going to be working with at Silver Flag we do not have up here at the 120th Fighter Wing," said Senior Master Sgt. Brian Bickel, 120th CES Production Controller and NCOIC of the deployment. "Take power production, for instance. They have a portable arresting system for the aircraft when they land. Our personnel will be deploying that system and setting it up in a contingency wartime environment setting. That's something that we just can't do up here."

Members of the 823rd RED HORSE Squadron will provide the training to the Montana civil engineers during the week and also will serve as the exercise evaluation team at the end of the event. During the final exercise they will evaluate the Montana civil engineers on their ability to put their training to work in a proficient and timely fashion.

Unit leadership sees great value in participating in realistic training exercises such as what Silver Flag has to offer.

"As a commander these are the types of training experiences that you seek to build that esprit de corps and cohesion you need in a unit," said 120th CES Commander Lt. Col. Ryck Cayer. "It also provides leadership opportunities for NCOs to develop into strong leaders in a different environment that includes different stressors. That's the kind of training you want to see before you're actually placed into a real-world scenario."

Air National Guard civil engineer squadrons are required to complete this type of training every 45 months and the Tyndall location is one of three world-wide training sites utilized by CE units to train and remain proficient in their capabilities.