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Alaskan Adventure Blog 3

Tech. Sgt. Marco De La Cruz, a member of the 146th Security Forces Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. instructs personnel on field patrol tactics at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Tech. Sgt. Marco De La Cruz, a member of the 146th Security Forces Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. instructs personnel on field patrol tactics at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Senior Airman Justin Cookson from the 146th Airlift Wing Security Force Squadron, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. uses hand signals to relay commands to other members during a practice patrol exercise in the woods at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska.  (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Senior Airman Justin Cookson from the 146th Airlift Wing Security Force Squadron, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. uses hand signals to relay commands to other members during a practice patrol exercise in the woods at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Tech. Sgt. Marco De La Cruz, a member of the 146th Security Force Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. uses a sand table, a three-dimensional version of a grid map, to illustrate how maps are a vital aid when traversing rough torrain as well as obtaining intelligence on a possible target. Security Force Squadron members from the 146 AW practiced patrol tactics in the woods at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska June 2011. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Kolb)

Tech. Sgt. Marco De La Cruz, a member of the 146th Security Force Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. uses a sand table, a three-dimensional version of a grid map, to illustrate how maps are a vital aid when traversing rough torrain as well as obtaining intelligence on a possible target. Security Force Squadron members from the 146 AW practiced patrol tactics in the woods at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska June 2011. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Technical Sergeant Marco De La Cruz, a member of the 146th Security Forces Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. instructs Security Forces members on how to properly use a sand table, a three-dimensional version of a grid map. The table helps to illustrate how maps are a vital aid when traversing rough terrain as well as obtaining intelligence on a possible target. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Technical Sergeant Marco De La Cruz, a member of the 146th Security Forces Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. instructs Security Forces members on how to properly use a sand table, a three-dimensional version of a grid map. The table helps to illustrate how maps are a vital aid when traversing rough terrain as well as obtaining intelligence on a possible target. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska -- Today was pretty cool. Alex and I spent the majority of the day with Security Forces tagging along as they practiced patrol maneuvers while working in a group. Although as you might have guessed, this kind of terrain isn't exactly what we are working with overseas right now, there are actually parts of northern Afghanistan and Iraq that have large mountainous areas.

All of us met up that morning at the Security Forces office and were issued our simulation rifles and rounds, as well as our protective vests and helmets. Everyone, but me. After getting our gear, we were given a "wildlife brief." One of the full-time members told us about the difference between brown bears and black bears (other than the obvious) and how to protect yourself if you happen to encounter one. If you meet a brown bear, then DO NOT run or make any sudden movements, he said. Lie on the ground, cover your neck and face and just pray for him to leave you alone. The black bear on the other hand is a little different. If you happen to come across a black bear then put your arms up and try to make yourself appear as large as possible, yell and the bear should run away.

"None of you should have any problems making yourself look larger, he said. "Well except maybe for Airman Ramirez back there... raise your hand Ramirez." Wow.... thanks.

Once everyone was geared up and I was called out in front of the entire group, we were off to our old residence "Mad Bull." All of the Airmen were separated into different groups and from there went over the different flanking movements. Positioning is very important because you don't want to have an area that does not have a set of eyes on it. After a few dry runs of each movement and where everyone needed to be, they were ready to test their skills in the woods. I asked Staff Sergeant Herb Seaman, a member of the 146th Security Forces Squadron, where I needed to be and where they wanted me to go during all this. I did not want to get in the way of the exercise but wanted to be in it just enough to see what all was going on. He told me that while in the Security Forces office, the fulltime members said there recently had been some bear and moose sightings in the area that we were going to be in. They gave him bear spray and a shotgun with slug rounds just in case we ran into someone that wasn't happy to see us. "Ok well... I guess I'm hanging with you Sir!"

While in the woods the Airmen were able to test their classroom lessons first hand. As they walked through the wilderness, I could see them try to use hand signals and scan the areas for the potential "enemy." Being out in the middle of nowhere especially with all the brush on the ground made it hard for them to be a quiet as they wanted to be but again... it was just practice.

Once we had finished our patrol maneuvers, Tech. Sgt. De La Cruz had another lesson for the Airmen in map-reading. We had just finished lunch and when we were eating he kept saying "don't throw anything away, make sure you guys save your stuff!" While everyone was eating, Sgt. De La Cruz had made a "sand table" in the volleyball court. He explained to the group that a sand table is a 3D scale of what a map looks like. While out in the field, resources are limited so use what you can (hence, the 'don't throw anything away'). Sgt. De La Cruz made a road using coffee creamer, a water hazard using the blue tape that designated the simulation rifles, cut the plastic container from his lunch and made a building. Once you have used your sand table and everyone can understand the objective then destroy it, said De La Cruz. The enemy may be behind you and can come across your map unless it is destroyed or buried.

It was then time for the Airmen to try their hand at sand tables. The groups from patrol were each given a corner in the volleyball court and went to work. They scoured the ground and dug through lunch boxes in the trash can looking for any items that may be useful. A piece of cardboard folded to make barracks, an empty bullet casing used a missile launching site and coffee grinds turning into the flight line. They were starting to get very creative with their scales and also very interested in what the competition was doing. As I walked around, I could hear them say "Dude, ours is sssoo good!" or "We need to add more, look at much they have!" It was funny to see them work so hard to make their mini-base. Sgt. De La Cruz called time and every group then had to stand and explain their map and what the objective was. One map was for a recon mission where the base was laid out like a resort to disguise that it was a nuclear site. Another I think looked like Cuba and another had an airfield with planes made out of hot pink tape.

Although there was no real winner or loser for the map making, and the patrol maneuvers were not perfect, Sgt. De La Cruz and other seasoned members of Security Forces said that these practice drills are great lessons for everyone. The more you practice, the better you will be and you never know, one day these lessons learned in the back woods of Alaska might end up saving your life.

Alaskan Adventure Blog 3

Tech. Sgt. Marco De La Cruz, a member of the 146th Security Forces Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. instructs personnel on field patrol tactics at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Tech. Sgt. Marco De La Cruz, a member of the 146th Security Forces Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. instructs personnel on field patrol tactics at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Senior Airman Justin Cookson from the 146th Airlift Wing Security Force Squadron, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. uses hand signals to relay commands to other members during a practice patrol exercise in the woods at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska.  (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Senior Airman Justin Cookson from the 146th Airlift Wing Security Force Squadron, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. uses hand signals to relay commands to other members during a practice patrol exercise in the woods at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Tech. Sgt. Marco De La Cruz, a member of the 146th Security Force Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. uses a sand table, a three-dimensional version of a grid map, to illustrate how maps are a vital aid when traversing rough torrain as well as obtaining intelligence on a possible target. Security Force Squadron members from the 146 AW practiced patrol tactics in the woods at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska June 2011. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Kolb)

Tech. Sgt. Marco De La Cruz, a member of the 146th Security Force Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. uses a sand table, a three-dimensional version of a grid map, to illustrate how maps are a vital aid when traversing rough torrain as well as obtaining intelligence on a possible target. Security Force Squadron members from the 146 AW practiced patrol tactics in the woods at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Anchorage, Alaska June 2011. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Technical Sergeant Marco De La Cruz, a member of the 146th Security Forces Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. instructs Security Forces members on how to properly use a sand table, a three-dimensional version of a grid map. The table helps to illustrate how maps are a vital aid when traversing rough terrain as well as obtaining intelligence on a possible target. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Technical Sergeant Marco De La Cruz, a member of the 146th Security Forces Squadron, 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, Calif. instructs Security Forces members on how to properly use a sand table, a three-dimensional version of a grid map. The table helps to illustrate how maps are a vital aid when traversing rough terrain as well as obtaining intelligence on a possible target. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Alex Koenig)

Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska -- Today was pretty cool. Alex and I spent the majority of the day with Security Forces tagging along as they practiced patrol maneuvers while working in a group. Although as you might have guessed, this kind of terrain isn't exactly what we are working with overseas right now, there are actually parts of northern Afghanistan and Iraq that have large mountainous areas.

All of us met up that morning at the Security Forces office and were issued our simulation rifles and rounds, as well as our protective vests and helmets. Everyone, but me. After getting our gear, we were given a "wildlife brief." One of the full-time members told us about the difference between brown bears and black bears (other than the obvious) and how to protect yourself if you happen to encounter one. If you meet a brown bear, then DO NOT run or make any sudden movements, he said. Lie on the ground, cover your neck and face and just pray for him to leave you alone. The black bear on the other hand is a little different. If you happen to come across a black bear then put your arms up and try to make yourself appear as large as possible, yell and the bear should run away.

"None of you should have any problems making yourself look larger, he said. "Well except maybe for Airman Ramirez back there... raise your hand Ramirez." Wow.... thanks.

Once everyone was geared up and I was called out in front of the entire group, we were off to our old residence "Mad Bull." All of the Airmen were separated into different groups and from there went over the different flanking movements. Positioning is very important because you don't want to have an area that does not have a set of eyes on it. After a few dry runs of each movement and where everyone needed to be, they were ready to test their skills in the woods. I asked Staff Sergeant Herb Seaman, a member of the 146th Security Forces Squadron, where I needed to be and where they wanted me to go during all this. I did not want to get in the way of the exercise but wanted to be in it just enough to see what all was going on. He told me that while in the Security Forces office, the fulltime members said there recently had been some bear and moose sightings in the area that we were going to be in. They gave him bear spray and a shotgun with slug rounds just in case we ran into someone that wasn't happy to see us. "Ok well... I guess I'm hanging with you Sir!"

While in the woods the Airmen were able to test their classroom lessons first hand. As they walked through the wilderness, I could see them try to use hand signals and scan the areas for the potential "enemy." Being out in the middle of nowhere especially with all the brush on the ground made it hard for them to be a quiet as they wanted to be but again... it was just practice.

Once we had finished our patrol maneuvers, Tech. Sgt. De La Cruz had another lesson for the Airmen in map-reading. We had just finished lunch and when we were eating he kept saying "don't throw anything away, make sure you guys save your stuff!" While everyone was eating, Sgt. De La Cruz had made a "sand table" in the volleyball court. He explained to the group that a sand table is a 3D scale of what a map looks like. While out in the field, resources are limited so use what you can (hence, the 'don't throw anything away'). Sgt. De La Cruz made a road using coffee creamer, a water hazard using the blue tape that designated the simulation rifles, cut the plastic container from his lunch and made a building. Once you have used your sand table and everyone can understand the objective then destroy it, said De La Cruz. The enemy may be behind you and can come across your map unless it is destroyed or buried.

It was then time for the Airmen to try their hand at sand tables. The groups from patrol were each given a corner in the volleyball court and went to work. They scoured the ground and dug through lunch boxes in the trash can looking for any items that may be useful. A piece of cardboard folded to make barracks, an empty bullet casing used a missile launching site and coffee grinds turning into the flight line. They were starting to get very creative with their scales and also very interested in what the competition was doing. As I walked around, I could hear them say "Dude, ours is sssoo good!" or "We need to add more, look at much they have!" It was funny to see them work so hard to make their mini-base. Sgt. De La Cruz called time and every group then had to stand and explain their map and what the objective was. One map was for a recon mission where the base was laid out like a resort to disguise that it was a nuclear site. Another I think looked like Cuba and another had an airfield with planes made out of hot pink tape.

Although there was no real winner or loser for the map making, and the patrol maneuvers were not perfect, Sgt. De La Cruz and other seasoned members of Security Forces said that these practice drills are great lessons for everyone. The more you practice, the better you will be and you never know, one day these lessons learned in the back woods of Alaska might end up saving your life.