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ATSO Training Provides Full Spectrum of Deployment

Members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing aircraft maintenance flight participate in an Ability to Survive and Operate, or ATSO, training facility in preparation for an upcoming Operational Readiness Exercise and Operational Readiness Inspection in a hanger at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. (Image by Airman 1st Class Joshua Morrison)

Members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing aircraft maintenance flight participate in an Ability to Survive and Operate, or ATSO, training facility in preparation for an upcoming Operational Readiness Exercise and Operational Readiness Inspection in a hanger at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. (Image by Airman 1st Class Joshua Morrison)

Members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing aircraft maintenance flight participate in an Ability to Survive and Operate, or ATSO, training facility in preparation for an upcoming Operational Readiness Exercise and Operational Readiness Inspection in a hanger at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. (Image by Airman 1st Class Joshua Morrison)

Members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing aircraft maintenance flight participate in an Ability to Survive and Operate, or ATSO, training facility in preparation for an upcoming Operational Readiness Exercise and Operational Readiness Inspection in a hanger at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. (Image by Airman 1st Class Joshua Morrison)

Members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing aircraft maintenance flight participate in an Ability to Survive and Operate, or ATSO, training facility in preparation for an upcoming Operational Readiness Exercise and Operational Readiness Inspection in a hanger at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. (Image by Airman 1st Class Joshua Morrison)

Members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing aircraft maintenance flight participate in an Ability to Survive and Operate, or ATSO, training facility in preparation for an upcoming Operational Readiness Exercise and Operational Readiness Inspection in a hanger at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. (Image by Airman 1st Class Joshua Morrison)

Members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing aircraft maintenance flight participate in an Ability to Survive and Operate, or ATSO, training facility in preparation for an upcoming Operational Readiness Exercise and Operational Readiness Inspection in a hanger at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. (Image by Airman 1st Class Joshua Morrison)

Members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing aircraft maintenance flight participate in an Ability to Survive and Operate, or ATSO, training facility in preparation for an upcoming Operational Readiness Exercise and Operational Readiness Inspection in a hanger at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base. (Image by Airman 1st Class Joshua Morrison)

Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base -- The 161st Air Refueling Wing aircraft maintenance flight developed and created an Ability to Survive and Operate, or ATSO, training facility in preparation for an upcoming Operational Readiness Exercise and Operational Readiness Inspection in a hanger at Phoenix Sky Harbor Air Force Base.

The ATSO training facility consists of multiple stations that recreate the full spectrum of a deployment.

"To make training as realistic as possible we decided to go through the full deployment starting with a pre-deployment briefing, such as checking dog tags and ID cards to get them in the mood," said Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Kellow, training facility designer and ATSO training instructor.

After the pre-deployment briefing, participants were put on a bus and transported to the hanger. They were then in-processed and issued weapons.

"[The pre-deployment and in-processing phase] gets them in the mindset that they are not at work - that they are deployed," said Sergeant Kellow.

Once they are issued weapons, participants move into a different section of the hanger where the training stations are located.

"We decided to train on some of the most common scenarios, such as bunker building, covering critical assets, and performing self-aide buddy care, because it's one thing to read about it and it's another thing to actually complete a task," said Sergeant Kellow. "Also, by keeping the training more realistic everyone seems to get a lot more out of it and it seems to stick a little better."

"The training was really worthwhile, especially since this is what we are going to be graded upon when it comes time for the ORE and ORI," said Lt. Col. Mitchell Culp, participant and the 161st Aircraft Maintenance Commander. "The station dealing with the casualties was especially good training; however, the best part was getting out of MOPP4." Mission-Oriented Protective Posture or MOPP levels determine the necessary gear and preparations in the event of nuclear, chemical or biological attack.

Not only were members of the unit impressed with the ATSO training setup, but visiting groups were also highly impressed.

"We had a group of [servicemembers] from the Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center, Volk Field, Wis. visit and they told us that our base is doing a thousand times better than 99 percent of the other units," said Sergeant Kellow.

The 459th Air Refueling Wing, Andrews Air Force Base, Md., also visited the ATSO training facility. This group, which is tasked to partner with the 161 ARW for the base's next ORE and ORI, included their Wing Commander and most of his subordinate commanders.

"They were very impressed and we have talked about an exchange where we would help one another at our respective bases," said Sergeant Kellow. "This partnership is the key to our future ORE and ORI success and is mutually supported by both commanders."

"As the 161 ARW prepares for the upcoming ORE and ORI, training such as this, will prove invaluable," said Colonel Culp.