Civil Engineers go to Silver Flag
By SrA. Tom Swanson, 102nd Intelligence Wing, Public Affairs
/ Published January 29, 2015
OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- The combat zone is not a place where you want to learn new skills. This is even more true when those skills involve building and maintaining the very base that protects you from the enemy.
On Friday, thirty civil engineers from the 102nd Civil Engineering Squadron and ten members from their sister unit, the 101st Civil Engineering Squadron from Bangor Maine, boarded a KC-135 aircraft at Otis Air National Guard Base and traveled to join the 823rd Red Horse Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base on the Florida panhandle. A convenient excuse to escape the cold weather? Not so. Their destination was Silver Flag, a mandatory seven day war-time contingency course that requires personnel to perform at the highest level in a realistic, 24/7, lockdown environment.
According to Master Sgt. Roger Chouinard of the 102nd Civil Engineering Squadron, the deployment has a two part mission. The first objective, "Bed-down" calls for constructing a fully functional military facility. Secondly, "Sustainment" requires teams to make rapid structural repairs after a simulated enemy attack.
Upon arrival at the 823rd, members break up into groups based on their Air Force Specialty Code. Then the roughly two hundred civil engineers from around the country begin to train on duty-specific tasks. Electricians work on runway lighting and power generation. Structural engineers work on expedient methods of framing, building, and repairing facilities. As stated in the Red Horse Silver Flag Fact Sheet, during the course, civil engineers, communications, force support, and finance personnel learn how to build and maintain bare-base operations at forward deployed locations. Participants hone a variety of combat and survival skills, such as repairing bomb-damaged runways and setting up base facilities. Services and force support members receive additional training on providing contingency lodging, fitness and recreation, food service, and mortuary affairs under hostile conditions.
After 5 days of training in a real world environment, the course culminates with a collaborative exercise scenario that tests the skills practiced and learned during the deployment. "Our [Command and Control section] plans the exercise, plans the work that has to be done, then they hand it to Operations who establishes the teams, then the teams go to work and actually complete the mission", said Master Sgt. Chouinard.
One key benefit to the joint exercise is that personnel gain experience with equipment not readily available at their home stations. The unique expeditionary training supplies combatant commanders with a highly trained, skilled and motivated emergency response force that is poised to perform in combat if called upon.
Exercises like this are nothing new for the 823rd Red Horse Squadron. The team of 74 work year-round providing contingency combat support training to Active-Duty, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Army, Marine Corps and allied nation personnel. The 102nd Civil Engineering Squadron is required to attend the Silver Flag course once every forty five months to sustain their proficiency. More than four thousand five hundred people are trained at the Silver Flag site each year. The multidisciplinary training at Silver Flag is a crucial component to the robust global response capability of the United States of America.