JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) —
The concept of a cross section of Airmen carrying out important wartime tasks seems like a good idea, but does it work?
That’s what the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s readiness team set out to prove May 22-24 during a Rapid Damage Repair Multi-Capable Airmen exercise at an Air Force regional training site at Dobbins Air Force Base, Georgia.
The exercise, the first of its kind for AFCEC, successfully demonstrated the concept said Master Sgt. Broc French, contingency training program manager at the center.
“In a deployed location, we might not be able to rely solely on civil engineers to execute traditionally CE work,” he said. “This exercise showcased that Airmen from various Air Force specialties can execute these types of repairs and support our CEs.”
In preparation for the exercise, five civil engineer Airmen from the 366th Civil Engineer Squadron at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, attended a five-day course in 2022 to learn how to perform wartime RDR tasks.
To test the MCA concept, a combination of 25 CE and non-CE Mountain Home AFB Airmen, with no prior RDR experience, were then selected from across the base to take part in the exercise at Dobbins AFB’s Air Force Reserve Command Expeditionary Combat Support Training Certification Center.
Once at the Georgia base, the five engineer teammates became their instructors for two days of classroom, tabletop and hands-on training, followed by a practical test with the team of CE, finance, maintenance, munitions, medical and operations support Airmen having to complete six concrete crater repairs and spall operations within four hours.
In essence, they repaired airfield damage that could limit the ability of aircraft to take off and land in a real-world, wartime environment.
“Traditionally, civil engineers do the rapid damage repair like we did here, but with this beta test, we brought in different squadrons and different groups to augment some of the tasks in the repair process … and they executed,” said Chief Master Sgt. Chad Lepley, AFCEC Readiness Directorate senior enlisted leader.
Senior Airman Kayla Panzarella is a medic at Mountain Home AFB, but she was a CE “dirt boy” during the exercise.
“Being a complete outsider to this world and routine, I thought it was very clear and precise for what I needed,” Panzarella said of the training. “I was super nervous to come in here and start cutting concrete after two days, but my instructor was amazing. He taught me everything and was patient. That’s really what you need in an environment like this coming from different jobs to something as scary as this is.
I can’t explain the feeling of doing this wartime task, this mission. I remember looking out from inside the (concrete-cutting heavy equipment) and having the feeling of, ‘Wow, we’re doing this … I’m so proud of myself, proud of this team.’ It was a feeling I can’t really explain … just excellence in what we were doing. It was a great feeling.”
French was impressed with the entire operation.
“It’s been outstanding … pretty awesome to see Airmen who have never been in a compact track loader or ever touched any of this equipment executing the mission,” he said. “After two days, they’ve been able to fill craters and, if it were a real-world scenario, be able to get aircraft off the ground quickly. This is a great concept that works, and we’re looking to expand it in the future.”
Master Sgt. Patrick Murphy, the 366th CES heavy repair section chief at Mountain Home AFB and instructor lead during the exercise, said the positive attitudes of everyone involved were key to the success of the event.
“This (exercise and MCA concept) is a really good start for changing the battlefield space,” Murphy said. “If you could take different career fields like security forces, medical and finance like we had out here, you could put people together to form an ‘A Squad.’ With that, you could take care of everything with a small force, as long as you had the right attitude like we had with folks this week.”