By Airman First Class Ashley Ramirez, 146th Airlift Wing
/ Published June 14, 2011
Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska -- The last few days for Alex and I have been very exciting. Alex and I got to follow Security Forces as they did their land navigation course. This was where all of the training they did for two days in the classroom was put to use. As the Airmen again broke into groups, each was designated a specific position. Some were the point men, who were in charge of the compass and coordinates, others were team leaders, etc.
Since the day navigation course was going on in the same area as the practice patrols the day before, we were given the shotgun again, and again my job was to stand next to Staff Sgt. Herb Seaman. I thought that was a smart choice. As we headed out on our land navigation course, it was soon very clear to me that we weren't going to be hiking on the trails. Anything that stood in our path we climbed over. Crawling over fallen trees, literally holding back branches and we walked through bushes and brush; it was a real course. At base camp before the course, Captain Marc Hutcheson who had decided to join us for the first leg of the course, had made a comment about the backpack I was carrying.
"Who knew that Public Affairs had so much equipment?" he said. "Airman Ramirez, your backpack is huge."
Well, as we were hiking in the woods, climbing and pushing our way through the brush, the group came across this huge bush that we decided to plow through. As I was holding the branches back for the person following me (who happened to be Capt. Hutcheson) I took a step forward, while still looking back to make sure I didn't let the branches swing back and hit him in the face, and there I went... head over feet, tripping over a fallen tree that I WOULD have seen if I was looking ahead. There also went my backpack over my head, increasing my momentum toward the ground. Nice Ashley. Ten minutes in and I already eat it, this is going to be a lovely day.
After I dusted off my pants and my pride, we were back on the trails and in no time our group found their first location. They patted each other on the back, Alex took a picture, and it was off to the next location. The Captain and the Chiefs left the group to head back for base camp, so it was only the Security Forces guys, Alex, myself and Sgt. Seaman with the shotgun. As we trekked on toward the second location it became very evident how important the compass readings are. Sgt. Seaman explained that being off by just a few degrees down here could mean missing your target by a 100 yards up there. And looking for something in a 100-yard radius through a very thick forest didn't seem like fun. We had been searching for our second target location for a while when eventually time ran out, and we got called back. Although we didn't find the second location, it seemed like good training and everyone at base camp said they learned some good information.
On our first day back from a few days' break, Alex and I were again with Security Forces, this time listening in on active shooter training. Our Airmen were going to be trained on proper formations when entering a building where an active shooter may be located, procedures for clearing rooms quickly and efficiently, and how to make it to the target (the guy shooting) in the fastest way possible.
As a 911 dispatcher in my civilian career, the class on an active shooter was very interesting to me. These types of things unfortunately could happen anywhere, and having the most information on what you need to do when something like this happens is vital. The instructors for that day were Master Sgt. Bryan Morberg and Tech. Sgt. Michael Zener, both training supervisors for Security Forces at the 176th Wing, Air National Guard Station, Anchorage, Alaska. We listened to the instructors explain how to subdue your suspect, what needs to get done in order to get to the suspect' s location quickly and efficiently, and what to do and what not to do to endanger more lives. The instructors also talked about active shooter incidents from the past including Columbine, Virginia Tech and Fort Hood and what we could learn from what did or didn't happen there.
After our classroom training, all our Airmen went outside to practice formations and making entry into a building. Master Sgt. Morberg taught formations on one side of the parking lot while Tech. Sgt. Zener taught entry inside of a vacant building. Once each group of Airmen had done each training several times, they were ready to put it into action. Everyone, including Alex and I, suited up and some were given simulation rifles and ammunition to "practice" with. A group of Airmen stood outside the doors while others were placed strategically inside, playing the roles of the bad guy or a victim. And then it started. As I stood in the corner with my little blue helmet, trying not to get shot with the paint ball rounds, I watched as entry teams came in, cleared the area room by room, yelled to the "victims" to run out the door with their hands raised, and eventually found the suspect. I am assuming that they had a "take no prisoners" policy because every time the entry group found the suspect, all I heard were a lot of rounds go off then I saw an Airman walk out with lots of spots of pink and blue paint all over their uniform. Got to do what you got to do I guess!
Both of the exercises that Alex and I participated in with Security Forces really showed the dynamics of their training. From hiking in the woods trying to find their way with a compass and map, to clearing a building and looking for an active shooter, we saw that there really are so many things that they have to train for. It is nice to know that they are really planning and are prepared for everything.