Commentary by Tech. Sgt. Jonathon Johnson
50th Space Wing Inspector General office
Why do we exercise? This is probably a question everyone asks at least once. The answer; because AFI 10-2501 requires us to. Although this may be true, there is a better answer. We exercise to prepare people for situations we hope will never happen.
We exercise so that in the event of a disaster, whether natural (Hurricane Katrina) or manmade (9-11), we all know what to do to protect our people, our assets, and keep the mission running especially during recovery.
So, what does it take to run an exercise? A lot of coordination and help from every functional area on base. The Installation Inspector General has almost 200 personnel assigned as Exercise Evaluation Team members and they are the functional experts. These EET members attend three planning meetings before each exercise, and are spread out around base to evaluate during the exercise and attend hotwash and outbrief meetings after the exercise.
All of this is in addition to their already busy work schedules. Without this team, we could not conduct effective exercises. Their expertise ensures we “train the way we fight.” Their hard work ensures the base benefits from the contingencies we exercise.
During the past five months, we have conducted field or “Phase II” exercises monthly. Often personnel at Schriever wonder why we go out to the field. They say, “Schriever will never deploy like this.” The truth of the matter is that Schriever probably will not deploy on a large scale unless something really bad happens. We practice to prepare for that day.
We prepare deployable military members to be ready and know what to do if they find themselves in a chemical environment. We validate and re-enforce the importance of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosives training given by the Civil Engineer Squadron. We also refresh and evaluate the skills necessary to save a life that they learned in Self-Aid Buddy Care. Finally, we train and evaluate some security specific aspects of a deployment thanks to our Security Forces EET.
Why did we have so many Phase II exercises this summer? Every base in the Air Force has the AFI 10-403 requirement to conduct at least one Phase II exercise tasking more than 25 percent of their deployable members every 20 months. August was Schriever’s 20th month. Because it had been so long since we exercised to this extent, leadership made the decision to practice enough times to task every deployable member at least once before August. The Unit Deployment Managers were required to create schedules to get everyone in a deployable position out to Base-X at least once before August.
Why was there a big push before August? New AFSPC IG guidance from November 2008 told us that they could observe any Phase II exercise that met the greater than 25 percent tasking of deployable personnel. If during that observation we met their criteria for a Phase II exercise, then they would count it as our formal evaluation and not do an additional one when they come out for a form inspection.
Despite, or perhaps because of, our high level of readiness, the AFSPC IG team did not observe Schriever personnel in August. This in no way implies that time and resources were wasted during the summer. Rather, potential deployers reached unprecedented levels of readiness for real world contingencies or deployments. In the end, that is exactly why we exercise.