by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Peterson Airmen participated in a major training exercise May 4 to 7 as if they were deployed to “Camp Bastion, Afghanistan” and came under chemical warfare attack. All the while about 120 evaluators closely watched and rated their every move. With their orange vests and clip boards, the evaluation team examined how Airmen responded when thrown into emergency scenarios.
The quarterly exercise, called Condor Crest, was aimed at preparing Airmen for field operations, including chemical attacks, explosive ordnance detection and rules of engagement. About 140 Airmen from Peterson were “deployed” to Camp Bastion.
“I have the training that was provided to every individual and we go through and make sure they are following it to the ‘T’,” said Master Sgt. Robert Goble, 21st Mission Support Group exercise coordinator. “We inject little scenarios that make things abnormal to see how they react in different situations.”
Sergeant Goble had previously earned kudos for the exercises he put together for the 21st Communications Squadron. He was brought in on Condor Crest to standardize exercise and compliance across the MSG.
“One of the things I like doing is to try to come up with realistic events because there is a lot of artificiality with some of the simulated exercises,” Sergeant Goble said.
Condor Crest kicked off with an active-shooter scenario that, for the first time, had players from the 21st Space Wing and the 302nd Airlift Wing partnered to deliver a killing spree that left eight people dead in Building 1285. The evaluators took notes on who made the 911 call, how long it took emergency crews to respond, how security forces cleared the building, and followed the event through to who made the notification to the families and how mortuary affairs handled the situation.
“The guide I’m using to evaluate is the actual training guide,” Sergeant Goble said. “We try to exercise active shooter every exercise so we get lots of practice.”
Since the shooting on Fort Hood Army installation in November 2009, Col. Stephen N. Whiting, 21st Space Wing commander, asked that an active-shooter scenario be worked into all quarterly exercises. The main event in this exercise, however, was the field exercises, said Bill Edwards, Peterson exercise director. The exercise program is designed to test the wing’s ability to perform deployment operations, emergency response actions and evaluate compliance with Department of Defense, Air Force, Air Force Space Command and 21st Space Wing instructions.
“Every exercise has a different targeted training,” Mr. Edwards said. “For this one, it’s how to survive in a chemical environment, how to know when to fire back.”
Behind the scenes, planning the exercise that involved use of M16 rifles, full chemical gear, a full decontamination tent and unexploded ordnance, took months to plan. This month’s exercise helped the wing prepare for an operational readiness inspection phase II.
Out in the field at “Camp Bastion,” Airmen spent about 90 minutes in full chemical gear. But first, they had to get into it.
“Everybody, hands in the air, stop what you are doing,” Sergeant Goble yelled during field exercises. “Evaluators, evaluate.”
Capt. Cory Long, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron and exercise evaluator, is no stranger to exercises, he said. He has been stationed in Korea, where Airmen exercise regularly. In the field, Captain Long watched as Airmen had nine seconds to put on their chemical gear – masks, hood and gloves.
“It’s a test,” he said. “The chemical gear hasn’t been used in theater in quite some time, but there are things we still need to know how to do.”
All of the evaluators’ comments will be rolled into a single report for Colonel Whiting. And, in two weeks, the exercise planners will start planning the next Condor Crest.
“Overall, they are doing well,” Sergeant Goble said of the Airmen’s performance during the field exercises. “They are using the buddy system.”