FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
A fire team of eight security forces specialists quietly make their way through the knee high grass and brush at “Base X” training site on Hickam Air Force Base… silently signaling to one another for their next movement. Suddenly, the silence is cut by the piercing sound of gunfire in the distance that immediately sets off a chain of events.
For an outsider watching, it is both chaotic and exciting. Not knowing where the opposing force (OPFOR) is or how many the team is facing. For the team, they have trained for this moment; to take down OPFOR as quickly as possible.
The fire team splits, four guardsmen on each side of a wedge formation, and begins advancing around the three hidden OPFOR. In less than 60 seconds they have them surrounded and take control of the area. With the OPFOR apprehended, they conduct a sweep to secure the area to eliminate any further threats and move deeper into the woods to prepare for another mock attack.
This scenario is a small portion of the jungle warfare training that the 154th Security Forces Squadron from Hickam Air Force base hosted for more than 70 members of the 141st and 194th Security Forces Squadrons from Fairchild Air Force base and Camp Murray, Wash. the first week of March at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
The week-long training began with troop leading procedures, movements, and patrols of the training site to give each member of the team a chance to lead through different scenarios.
“Leading a squad in a new environment with unfamiliar terrain is beneficial for not only the trainee, but the trainer as well, because everyone really has to get into that combat mindset,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Plourd, a Combat Arms Training and Maintenance instructor at the 141st SFS. “The way in which leaders communicate can be vastly different, so I enjoyed being able to see different squad integrations and how team leaders were able to approach unique situations.”
From troop leading procedures, the group moved on to tracking fundamentals where they learned to detect human activity in a jungle setting or wooded area by observing disturbed ground, broken branches and grass, as well as implementing those tactics to track members of their team.
Many portions of the training were a completely new experience for many of the guardsmen.
“We wanted to expose the group to something new; something completely different from anything we have ever done,” said Master Sgt. Lonnie Bell, a squad leader in the 141st SFS. “You can never train too much and you can never train to every scenario you’re going to run into, so throwing our teams into different situations can really help with combat thinking.”
The final day of training consisted of a culmination of each fundamental skill the team learned by incorporating them into a closing exercise and waterborne operations. They were given a scenario to move from “Base X” through an occupied area facing an unknown number of OPFOR, conducting assaults and securing the area, and was completed with a mile-long ruck march and practical training on waterproofing gear.
Along with new experiences also comes new challenges. The group quickly learned what worked and what didn’t and discovered how valuable practice with troop leading and communication was when on the final day of training each fire team leader was “killed” during their last exercise. The fire team leaders could not assist their team in any capacity.
“The cadre wouldn’t let me help my troops and that was really difficult,” said Bell. “I wanted to help and give advice, but was told I wasn’t allowed to talk. You have to adapt and overcome quickly. It was tough, but my squad did great.”
The team building aspect of a training opportunity such as this is tremendously valuable, said Bell. Getting the chance to have everyone experience this together really adds a cohesiveness to the group and helps build stronger relationships.
“It’s not every day that we get to do something like this; to go through training that we can’t do at home was so beneficial for our group,” said Plourd. “We were able to deploy everyone with real world gear and go through training that is so specific to a jungle environment and we hit it out of the park.”