First In, Last Out: 1 CBCS debuts USAFE’s first certified fieldcraft hostile course

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Peter Thompson
  • 86 Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The sound of gunfire erupts, dampening the melodic symphony of afternoon drizzle and forcing a group of Airmen to retreat to the wooded safety of the surrounding forest. The roar of a HUMVEE engine can be heard as it crests the top of the hill. In the ensuing chaos, everyone is focused on the task at hand, finding their next waypoint and collecting the exfiltration coordinates before being captured.

If this sounds like a combat scenario to you, the 1st Combat Communications Squadron cadre have succeeded in their mission. Thankfully this isn’t war, and nobody is in real danger. The guns are shooting blanks and the price of capture is starting that segment of the land navigation course over.

“We really wanted to make our land navigation something different than what anyone else was doing,” said Staff Sgt. Ryley Carlsen, 1st Combat Communications Squadron expeditionary training supervisor and combat readiness school instructor. “People tend to learn more when they’re having fun.”

His sentiment rings true in the faces of his 20 students. Although they are wet, cold and exhausted, it is evident that they are enjoying the training.

“I never knew how to navigate land prior to this training,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Gabriel Salvador, 1st CBCS tactical client systems technician. “We were taught how to find our location on a map without a GPS, it was very useful.”

There are still three more days of U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s only field craft-hostile course, the 1st CBCS Combat Readiness School. As part of the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing, the 1st CBCS’s mission is to rapidly provide deployable communications and air traffic control services throughout Europe and Africa.

This course is the culmination of 22 months of work to receive Air Education and Training Command’s certification, 207 checklist items and 14 lesson plans that had to be seamlessly integrated and executed in a 10-day course.

“This capability does not exist anywhere else inside USAFE, and we are extremely proud of what we’ve created,” said Staff Sgt. Devin Mitchell, 1st CBCS cadre and master combatives instructor. “This week is special because AETC is here validating our course,” Mitchell continued. “Now we will start getting students from across the command and the Air Force.”

The 1st CBCS Combat Readiness School’s target audience is Airmen who will be conducting missions in uncertain and hostile environments outside the wire. Blocks of instruction include vital skills such as combatives, land navigation, tactical movement, urban operations, mounted operations and small arms proficiency.

“We need to be ready to deploy anywhere in support of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa missions within 72 hours,” said Tech. Sgt. Rex Longwell, 1st CBCS expeditionary training noncommissioned officer in charge and course facilitator. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the time or resources to send Airmen stateside for training. We needed a combat ready training solution in-house. So we built one.”

The next three days are cold and long, with temperatures hovering just above freezing. After a crawl, walk, run approach to training, students are ready to run as they face their final test during the capstone exercise. Everything they have spent nine days learning is thrown at them and they must respond appropriately.

During one scenario their convoy encounters unexploded ordinance and a wounded service member. As they provide medical care, they are ambushed and must reposition themselves and their vehicles to return fire while performing care under fire. After defeating the opposing forces, they quickly transition to tactical field care and form a plan to request evacuation. A 9-line request is called in and the team moves the casualty to a nearby landing zone before cadre call ENDEX.

“It was so intense,” said Salvador. “We had to defend ourselves from an unknown number of combatants while simultaneously recovering a wounded soldier.”

With their mission accomplished, students and cadre retreat to the safety of their cots for one last evening together before trading them in for comfortable beds. You can sense the bond students have formed as they joke and share experiences from the last few days. The cadre look proud and relieved. They are ready to celebrate their inclusion as the fifth course certified to teach field craft skills in the U.S. Air Force.

The 1 CBCS motto is “First In, Last Out.” The 20 students who attended the 1st CBCS Combat Readiness School now have the skills needed to live up to that expectation in any environment.

“It is difficult to articulate the totality of the work that went into making this course a reality,” said Master Sergeant Ryan Unger, 1st CBCS expeditionary training section chief. “The tireless efforts of our talented, innovative Airmen have culminated in another ‘first’ for the 1st CBCS. Preparing Airmen for combat is priority one at 1 CBCS and I could not be prouder of this team.”