Twenty-four members of the 104th Civil Engineer Squadron, five Public Affairs Airmen and a Services Squadron member boarded an Iowa Air National Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft Saturday morning to participate in the Silver Flag Exercise at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
Silver Flag is the primary civil engineering training exercise in the Air Force. In addition to civil engineering, services personnel take part in the exercise by providing meals, lodging and mortuary affairs support in the simulated expeditionary environment.
The first three days of the exercise consist of classroom instruction, ensuring all team members have the skill sets necessary to succeed. On the end of the third day, Exercise Silver Steed occurs, putting all the classroom training into practical application.
With little established at the ‘bare base’, personnel from various Air Force specialties work together to develop a bed-down plan, then provide all necessary infrastructure to survive the combat scenario.
The 104th Fighter Wing fielded three teams; a civil engineering readiness team, a fire protection team, and a command element. In addition, a services augmentee traveled down to assist the other services teams who will be working to create a forward operating location for the civil engineering Airmen to operate.
“It is critical for our Airmen to gain the insight this exercise provides,” said Maj. Steven P. Dougherty, the 104th Fighter Wing Civil Engineer Squadron commander. “Our ability to train is limited by the resources we are near; the equipment and scenarios provided through this exercise environment are invaluable to our combat readiness.”
While engaged with this exercise, the 104th Fighter Wing’s public affairs team will have an opportunity to cover a real-world combat contingency exercise. The team will be challenged to document the trip experiences all while publishing stories as they unfold. This is the first opportunity the team has had to work as an integrated multi-media and public affairs team since the merger of the two career fields in 2007.
“This trip will offer us an opportunity to provide public affairs support while in the field. We will experience challenges we typically don’t experience while covering local news stories at home,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Sabonis, public affairs noncommissioned officer in charge. “We have always documented events from a historical perspective, but with this merger, now we can use our tools to market the unit and tell its peoples’ stories.”
The exercise will conclude on Friday, February 6, and the teams will return to Barnes Air National Guard base in Westfield, Mass.