TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Early in the morning, as the sun starts to crest the horizon, a transport truck full of U.S. Air Force Airmen comes to a stop in an open field. As they start to unload and prepare for the day, explosions ring out nearby.
“Alarm Red” sounds on the loud speakers. The group of Airmen quickly grab their gear and run for shelter, all while being watched closely. Lucky for them, the prying eyes are not those of the enemy, but the eyes of cadre who are evaluating their every step.
The cadre belong to the services flight assigned to Detachment 1, 823rd Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers (REDHORSE) Squadron at the Silver Flag site on Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Their job is to train Airmen prior to deployment.
“We are here to support the combatant commander down range,” said Tech. Sgt. Melinda Alderete, Detachment 1, 823rd REDHORSE Squadron force support squadron training and curriculum NCO in charge. “We train all the Airmen to deploy into the [area of responsibility] with as much knowledge as possible.”
The training Airmen receive here prepares them for a variety of tasks and situations that may arise during their deployment. The Silver Flag site trains more than just force support squadron personnel, many civil engineer career fields also receive valuable training for upcoming deployments.
For FSS Airmen attending the course, each of the training areas are watched closely and graded by Silver Flag cadre.
“If the students are to make mistakes, we want them to make them here instead of downrange,” Alderete said. “We try to use every moment as a teaching moment so they can be better prepared to execute the mission. We train them on food service, lodging and bed down plans, mortuary affairs contingency operations, fitness and recreation, as well as command and control.”
The class is seven days long and each day is structured to make the best use of time.
“They get four and a half days of training then a day and a half of execution on everything we trained them to do,” Alderete said. “It’s a walk and then run, we show them how to do it, and then we expect them to be able to execute.”
Spending a week at a location like Silver Flag allows Airmen to get refreshed training on skills they don’t routinely use, or garner completely new skills they may need later on.
“At home station, it’s hard for them to get out, touch the assets and get the good quality training they need,” said Master Sgt. Adam Sorrell, Detachment 1, 823rd REDHORSE Squadron services section chief. “When they come out to Silver Flag, they get to use the same equipment they will be using down range and get hands on with it.”
The FSS portion of silver flag can accommodate up to 595 students per year. The section also hosts the capstone week of the initial FSS officer training, supporting a maximum 288 officers per year.
“As far as the FSS silver flag, we have 17 classes per year,” Sorrell said. “We also train our officers during the initial force support officer training. A major part of their graduation requirement happens when they attend our one week Officer Field Education, which we host four times every year. It culminates with the FSS officers earning their AFSC badge.”
The training recently underwent a complete overhaul, switching gears from classroom based training to a more hands-on approach.
“We rewrote our curriculum for the first time in nine years,” Alderete said. “A lot of the new training talks about the new and updated [Air Force instructions], as well as a lot more hands on training.”
One of the most beneficial pieces of the Silver Flag training is their ability to adapt the curriculum to fit the real-world needs of the Air Force worldwide.
“For the Silver Flag program that we have today, we are taking the students’ feedback to help meet the needs of [future] students and the different [major commands] and [combatant commands] out here,” Sorrell said. “With all the feedback we receive we are able to adjust the curriculum to reflect what is going on in the current environment.”