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Air Advisor Students Fly, Fight, Win
by USAF Airman 1st Class Ryan Throneberry - February 19, 2013

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JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - Students with the Air Advisor Academy here took part in a field training exercise (FTX) Feb. 1, 2013, here.

Air Advisor Academy students enter a building for cover against enemy fire Feb. 1, 2013, on the ranges at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., as part of their field training exercise. The range facilities replicate an urban environment students may encounter downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Throneberry)
Air Advisor Academy students enter a building for cover against enemy fire Feb. 1, 2013, on the ranges at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., as part of their field training exercise. The range facilities replicate an urban environment students may encounter downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Throneberry)

The FTX is the culmination of all the expeditionary skills and language, region and cultural knowledge the 28 students have gained during their time at the academy.

“When they first come to the academy, they are unsure of themselves,” said Col. J. Olaf Holm, Air Advisor Academy commandant. “During the month they are here, we try to recreate the conditions they will see downrange so they can build that confidence within themselves.”

The students come from a variety of backgrounds from helicopter pilots to aviation mechanics, medical personnel to weathermen and everything in between. An air advisor is an airman specially trained and educated to apply aviation expertise to assess, train, advise, assist and equip foreign personnel in developing and applying aviation resources to meet the host nation's needs in support of U.S. interests.

The exercise takes place in a mock Afghanistan landscape in Kandahar province. The scenario involves air advisors meeting an Afghan Air Force colonel to introduce themselves as the new air advisors in the area.

The students must brief the fieldcraft instructors their plan for the event prior to going out to Range 59E, the meeting location. The facilities at Range 59E replicate an urban environment students may encounter downrange.

The meeting lasted two hours before the students loaded into their vehicles, preparing to head back to the academy. The drivers received a call that their planned route was no longer an option which diverted them straight through a village.

The village is where trainers dressed as an opposing force engaged the students, forcing them to disembark, return fire and move on foot to a helicopter extraction point.

“A big difference between this FTX iteration and others is the use of our new airsoft guns instead of inert blue weapons,” said Holmes. “It allows the students and the opposing force to fire and return fire, adding to the effect and realism of the training.”

Armed with their airsoft weapons, the students returned fire but also incurred casualties, forcing wingmen to combat dress and care for the wounded - adding additional stress to a high-speed environment.

“It's amazing to see these students take all the lessons learned during the course and apply them here,” said Holm. “Amidst all the chaos and triage going on, the students reacted appropriately and did what they needed to accomplish.”

The students tactically moved through the wooded area behind the village to their designated landing zone all the while receiving fire from advancing enemy personnel. Once all 28 students had made it to the LZ, a cease fire was called, allowing the students to recollect for the debriefing.

“This training scenario teaches us the basic warrior skills we all need to know,” said Tech. Sgt. Bryan Sammons, 438th Air Expeditionary Advisor Group security forces advisor. “I feel like it was a good assessment of our skills we've learned during our time at the academy.”

“My advice to future air advisor students is to keep an open mind and really absorb everything you learn here,” said Sammons. “Being in security forces, I am familiar with expeditionary training like this but I still learned a great deal. That knowledge will stay with me throughout my future deployment.”

More photos available below

By USAF Airman 1st Class Ryan Throneberry
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2013

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