Desert Airmen head to mountains for expeditionary skills training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 161st Air Refueling Wing based in Phoenix traveled to Camp Navajo, the Army's high elevation training center here, to complete vital training requirements Aug. 4 through 7.

During the training, Airmen learned contingency skills such as self-aid buddy care and the ability to survive and operate during chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive attacks. The Airmen also participated in diversity training and learned land navigation skills.

Completing ancillary training at Camp Navajo versus home station allowed Airmen to focus solely on the training, while also providing a location where classroom and field instruction could be completed in one area said Col. Kyle Kobashigawa, 161st Mission Support Group commander and camp commandant.

"When we are at home station we have a lot of stuff to do and so the training gets put on hold. There's a lot to accomplish in just one weekend," said Airman 1st Class Robert Thompson, 161st Medical Group aerospace medic. "It's nice to come up here and not have to worry about all the other stuff we need to do around base."

Tech. Sgt. Steven Isaman, superintendent of nursing services at the wing, said focusing on training without distractions can save a life. He said when self-aid buddy care is taught at home station; Airmen are often called away in the middle of training because they are needed elsewhere. This can take away from vital hands on training, which builds the muscle memory needed in real-life situations.

"It's not only your life, it's your buddy's life too," he said. "It's one thing to see something demonstrated, but when you actually perform it, you find there are little nuances that maybe you didn't notice before. You could be making a swath to support a broken arm and realize you need to lift the arm higher to tie the knot; things that if you don't practice you will fumble through when they happen in real life. If you fumble in real life you are delaying care and putting people at risk."

Thompson said he enjoyed reinforcing skills and building new ones - especially land navigation.

"I learned how to shoot an azimuth and how to read a map and find points on it," he said. "I never thought about counting my paces and paying attention to that. I don't know if I'll ever have to use it, but it was fun learning it, and I guarantee someone up here will use it someday."

Thompson also enjoyed getting to know new people.

"It's nice to be able to meet people outside of drill," he said. "You see people around base, but you don't know their names or really know them personally."

Kobashigawa said meeting new people was almost as important as the training itself.

"Meeting new people helps with base communication, and thereby, helps the mission," he said. "Being traditional guardsmen it's hard to remember someone's name from month to month. We do our jobs and then go home. At [Camp] Navajo, we ate our meals together, we trained together and we spent time after the duty day getting to know each other. Having the time to meet new people and get to know them on a personal basis, will pay huge communication dividends down the road. Now they know someone from base supply or POL (Petroleum Oil and Lubricants) or the clinic - and they met at [Camp] Navajo."