MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
Trucking through the woods, sweat dripping from their foreheads with every step, Airmen try to cool their bodies in the scorching heat. Surrounded only by the forest, with light barely peeking through the trees, members of the 633rd Security Forces Squadron, 633rd Force Support Squadron, and 633rd Medical Operations Squadron teamed together for a field training exercise simulating day-to-day operations in a deployed environment at the Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Virginia.
The buzzing from the insects in the forest is only dwarfed by the sounds of leaves rustling and twigs snapping under their feet as they progress through a grueling 11-mile march.
Stopping only on occasion to hydrate before continuing with the mission, they near their objective. Quieting their footsteps as they try to recon the enemy’s position; silence could be the difference between life and death for the members participating who may face this situation in a real combat environment at some point in their military career.
While at Quantico, the 633rd SFS members, known as defenders, sharpened their skills while conducting day and night reconnaissance operations, establishing a forward operating base, and clearing villages to acquire a specific target.
According to U.S. Air Force Maj. Matthew Hall, 633rd SFS operations officer, the field training is preparing Airmen to perform in high-paced environments by exposing them to a multitude of stressful factors.
“Most of the tasks that we are going to be asked to do in a deployed environment are usually done under a high stress situation,” Hall said. “Because of that, the training that’s required for Airmen to be proficient in their jobs, requires us to simulate that high stress environment and to train to muscle-memory.”
Patrolling, reacting to indirect fire and entry control procedures helps push the Airmen to the brink of exhaustion to build the skills needed in a combat environment, said Hall.
“These FTXs are awesome training opportunities for these Airmen not only for the mental aspect, but the physical aspect as well,” said Senior Airman Jordan Ryan, 633rd SFS unit scheduler/trainer. “Taking them out through the woods and learning these tactics that they probably haven’t seen in a while is overall a great learning experience and if we keep these up, we’re going to have a lot tougher defenders out there.”
Feeding the beast
While defenders trucked through miles of untamed terrain, feeding the beast fell to the small team of eight who also practiced their expeditionary skills by feeding more than 100 members participating in the FTX. Finding dining accommodations in the woods complicated their mission so Airmen set up a food preparation tent to store, cook, and serve meals--a skill they may need if downrange.
“This is what we are going to have to do when we are deployed to a bare base or a location that doesn’t have the infrastructure we need,” said Master Sgt. Adam Rains, 633rd FSS sustainment services flight superintendent. “This training is a really good opportunity for us because it’s been harder to get our younger Airmen experience on this field feeding equipment.”
With each hot meal provided, the 633rd FSS Airmen saw first-hand how valuable their hard work was to the other members of the exercise.
“They don’t want to stay back from the [feeding] shifts,” said Capt. Laura Haggerty, 633rd FSS officer in charge. “They all want to go to the feeding operation because they get to see that real-time gratitude that comes with our mission.”
Care under fire
As temperatures rose well into the triple digits during the FTX, members of the 633rd MOS cared for participants while working to decrease the possibility of heat related illnesses, a very real threat.
According to Tech. Sgt. Christian Roebbelen, 633rd Medical Operations Group paramedic, the deployed environment allowed his Airmen the opportunity to handle real-life medical issues while training for hostile conditions.
With the nearest hospital over an hour away, it was up to the paramedics on-scene to perform patient evaluations, administer medical aid, and transport injured Airmen to receive further medical treatment.
“We don’t get to work a lot as stand-alone medics so it’s great training and a refresher for us,” said Roebbelen. “We are here to support our members, regardless of the environment.”
Over the course of five days, the combined effort of the three units helped execute an FTX that enabled Airmen to increase their real-world readiness capabilities. From conducting security operations exercises to providing medical aid to feeding everyone out in the field, every Airmen had a role to help accomplish the FTX mission.