JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – The U.S. military is expected to be the most highly trained, highly skilled, mission-ready lethal force in the world. As members of the Air National Guard, the reality is that our members must juggle their home lives, civilian jobs and school, in addition to the demands of their military service.
National Guardsmen meet two days a month to complete their basic training, along with two weeks of annual field training as a supplement. Even with this dedicated time, airmen are often required to complete skills and professional development courses on their own time. This can be a valuable benefit for those who want to continue serving but cannot take months of their home life to attend residential courses.
While these options allow for flexibility, there are certain experiences that are impossible to replicate from a book. With that in mind, the 134th Engineer Construction Squadron set out to establish a training deployment with Airmen, with the goal of providing them with new and valuable experiences.
“When we put together the training schedule, we wanted to talk about professional development,” said Lt. Col. David Barrett, civil engineering squadron commander. “AFSC training is important, professional development is important, personal development is important. What I’ve found is that there are a lot of things that our Airmen don’t know about, and this field training gives us an opportunity to sit down and talk about some of those things.
The Construction Squad is most often associated with the kind of hands-on work that builds and maintains bases, and that’s often how they’re trained. However, on this ride, they’re intentionally pacing it differently to provide a more well-rounded experience.
“We’ve come in and done projects in the past, like renovating a duplex,” Lt. Col. Barrett said. “And sometimes when we do that, we don’t have an opportunity to slow down and be intentional about how we train our Airmen.” So this annual field training, I’ve encouraged our NCOs to slow down, train people, take them through it in a much slower way so they understand it, and that way when our Airmen deploy, they’ll have better understanding of ‘why’ we do the things we do.
However, there is still much hands-on training to be done, and the location on the island of Oahu provided many unique advantages.
“The reason we chose this location is to have training areas that are bare base settings so we can use the skills that we would in a deployed environment,” explained Master Sgt. James Cutshaw, Chief Warrant Officer of the 134th Construction Squadron. “Our aquatic fuels team was able to work with the Navy on equipment that they would see in a deployed environment that was not available anywhere else. We also had our fire and emergency response team work with the Marine Corps on the north side of the island to conduct some of their AFSC training. We have worked with our active duty colleagues at Bellows Air Force Station; the situation there is more than the environment you would see in a deployed location. We were able to use our engineering assistants to set things up, we were able to use heavy equipment to clear roads and runways, and we had our HVAC staff install modules that they would see in the deployment environment as well.”
In addition to the express military requirements, there are other benefits to squadron training trips, especially for members who spend only a few hours together each month.
“It gives us a much better capability than we would have at base station,” Lt. Col. Barrett said. “I think a lot of airmen feel isolated in their shops and don’t have a lot of opportunities to connect with each other. So now we’ve given them the opportunity to connect while growing in their skill set.