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Airmen gain tactical convoy experience at Naval Air Station Fallon

Airmen quickly break convoy formation and post security when one of their vehicles is notionally hit with a roadside bomb during the Air Wing Fallon exercise earlier this month. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Getten, Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs

Airmen quickly break convoy formation and post security when one of their vehicles is notionally hit with a roadside bomb during the Air Wing Fallon exercise earlier this month. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Getten, Joint Force Headquarters Public Affairs

DIXIE VALLEY --      Young Airmen carefully convoyed Humvees into a snowy valley. Navy helicopters provided close air support while F-18 fighters littered the canyon with bombs.

     The 152nd Security Forces Squadron sent 10 Airmen to participate in this joint training exercise at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at Naval Air Station Fallon, earlier this month. For the Guardsmen, their two weeks in the exercise named "Air Wing Fallon" focused primarily in a ground combat role providing convoy security and securing targets of opportunity.

     The Air Force ground crew was comprised of Airmen from the 152nd and active duty units from Florida, Idaho and Utah, and civilian contractors from Science Applications International and Northrop Grumman Corporations. The group supported the Naval Air Station Fallon carrier group pre-deployment qualifications and some initial qualifications for the Marine tactical air controllers.

     "Air Wing Fallon is put on for every carrier air group in the Navy just prior to their shipping out on cruise," said Paul Persson of SAIC. "Typically, Air Force Airmen are brought in from units that have a need to move in convoys and although the convoy operation is a small piece of the exercise, it provides some high level training, they normally don't get."

     During the first week the Airmen spent a day in the classroom environment receiving basic instruction followed by four days in the field practicing the convoy maneuvers. In the second week, the newly gained skills were put into practice as the Airmen became the blue force (friendly) convoy for the dynamic targeting portion of the exercise.

     "The blue force convoy exercise provides training above and beyond standard Air Force convoy training and gives members the opportunity to put their newly-learned skills to practice during the dynamic targeting events," said Chief Master Sgt. Rob Taulman, of the 152nd Security Forces Squadron.

     In this exercise scenario, the blue force convoy receives direction from joint tactical air controllers from the Marine Corps Special Operations Command who coordinates air strike efforts against robust red force (enemy) targets. For many of the Nevada Guardsmen, this was their first experience with close air support provided by Navy HH-60 Seahawk air weapons team helicopters and multiple sections of Navy F-18 Hornet emergency close air support.

     Once the blue convoy reached the training site in Dixie Valley northeast of Fallon, the Airmen mounted their weapons on the Humvees, and the off road portion of the exercise began. The convoy faced a wide array of obstacles provided courtesy of the Grumman red force team. Red force had numerous simulated improvised explosive devices, rocket propelled grenades and an entire arsenal at its disposal.

     "When I got here I didn't know much about driving Humvees and even less about convoys like this," said Airman First Class Robert Dowdie of the 152nd Security Forces Squadron. "Now I feel confident I know what to do and can react properly."

     "It has been crawl, walk, run for these airmen. First we started off with the basics, one skill at a time. Now these guys have got it down, it is very smooth," said Master Sgt. Jeremy Reedy from 728th Air Control Squadron from Eglin AFB, Fla. "I would convoy with any of them."