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729th ACS holds pre-deployment skills training exercise

Tech. Sgts. Vincent Bourgeois and Michael Curtin, 729th Air Control Squadron, practice site perimeter defense during expeditionary training Feb. 22 at Hill Air Force Base. The four-day pre-deployment exercise covered personal preparation, site preparation and defense, weapons familiarization, self-defense, care-under-fire, improvised explosive device classification and communication. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Tech. Sgts. Vincent Bourgeois and Michael Curtin, 729th Air Control Squadron, practice site perimeter defense during expeditionary training Feb. 22 at Hill Air Force Base. The four-day pre-deployment exercise covered personal preparation, site preparation and defense, weapons familiarization, self-defense, care-under-fire, improvised explosive device classification and communication. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Maj. Jonathan Schisler, 729th Air Control Squadron, plays a role in vehicle challenge and response procedures at an Entry Control Point during a Feb. 22 training exercise at Hill Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Maj. Jonathan Schisler, 729th Air Control Squadron, plays a role in vehicle challenge and response procedures at an Entry Control Point during a Feb. 22 training exercise at Hill Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Guerttman, 729th Air Control Squadron, instructs fellow 729th ACS Airmen on room clearing procedures during a Feb. 22 training exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Guerttman, 729th Air Control Squadron, instructs fellow 729th ACS Airmen on room clearing procedures during a Feb. 22 training exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Airmen of the 729th Air Control Squadron practice room clearing procedures during an expeditionary training exercise at Hill Air Force Base’s ‘North 40’ training area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Airmen of the 729th Air Control Squadron practice room clearing procedures during an expeditionary training exercise at Hill Air Force Base’s ‘North 40’ training area. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Woods, 775th Civil Engineer Squadron, briefs 729th Air Control Squadron Airmen on Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, during an expeditionary training exercise at the ‘North 40’ training area at Hill Air Force Base, Feb. 23. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Staff Sgt. Jonathan Woods, 775th Civil Engineer Squadron, briefs 729th Air Control Squadron Airmen on Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, during an expeditionary training exercise at the ‘North 40’ training area at Hill Air Force Base, Feb. 23. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Airman 1st Class Paul Leszczewski and Senior Airman Kristina Stubbe, 729th Air Control Squadron, drag a simulated wounded Airman, Senior Airman Thomas Smith, while practicing site defense during a expeditionary training exercise Feb. 23. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Airman 1st Class Paul Leszczewski and Senior Airman Kristina Stubbe, 729th Air Control Squadron, drag a simulated wounded Airman, Senior Airman Thomas Smith, while practicing site defense during a expeditionary training exercise Feb. 23. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Staff Sgt. Jason Smith, 729th Air Control Squadron, applies a tourniquet to his leg and is briefed on care-under-fire procedures by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Guerttman, 729th Air Control Squadron, during training Feb. 23. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Staff Sgt. Jason Smith, 729th Air Control Squadron, applies a tourniquet to his leg and is briefed on care-under-fire procedures by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Guerttman, 729th Air Control Squadron, during training Feb. 23. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Airman 1st Class Zachary Blackwood, 729th Air Control Squadron, returns fire as he is dragged to cover by Staff Sgt. Ty Craiglow, 729th Air Control Squadron, while practicing in a site defense scenario during an expeditionary training exercise at Hill Air Force Base’s ‘North 40’ training area Feb. 23. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

Airman 1st Class Zachary Blackwood, 729th Air Control Squadron, returns fire as he is dragged to cover by Staff Sgt. Ty Craiglow, 729th Air Control Squadron, while practicing in a site defense scenario during an expeditionary training exercise at Hill Air Force Base’s ‘North 40’ training area Feb. 23. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Airmen from the 729th Air Control Squadron here recently completed training designed to better prepare them for combat situations.

Deployments to an AOR (Area of Responsibility), or combat zone, are a regular occurrence for most Airmen and a routine part of active duty military life. However, depending on the location, some areas are more dangerous than others, with each geographic location providing its own unique set of hazards and threats.

In preparation for upcoming deployments, Lt. Col. Johnny McGonigal, 729th ACS commander, identified possible unique down range hazards outside of his Airmen’s normal knowledge and skill set. A training exercise was then organized locally to give the Airmen current and specific skills curtailed to their deployment location.

“As a combat-coded CRC, or Control and Reporting Center, we need to be prepared to deploy and operate anywhere in the world with minimal warning,” McGonigal said. “Currently, many of our Airmen deploy to austere locations that are very close to the fight but not to locations that warrant AF-sponsored training. We developed this in-house program to ensure our deploying Airmen have the basic skills they need to defend themselves and operate effectively under fire if needed.”

The scope of this year’s pre-deployment skills training exercise was comprehensive. It covered personal preparation, site preparation and defense, weapons familiarization, self-defense, care-under-fire, Improvised Explosive Device classification and communications. Taking place on the base’s ‘North 40’ training area, the four-day exercise ran Feb. 21-24, and consisted of briefings, demonstrations and combat-scenario training given by local personnel from 729th ACS Plans & Programs, 75th Security Forces Squadron and the 775th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight.

One of the unit’s Airmen, Staff Sgt. Joseph James, enjoyed the training and now has a better understanding of defensive site preparation and defense.

“We learned a greater situational awareness through simulated combat firefight scenarios and how to counteract to the best of our abilities,” James said. “The site defense, with (opposition forces) out there providing resistance, has been my favorite part of this exercise.”

The 729th ACS is considered a tactical unit, but some of the squadron’s personnel may be in a support function and not a tactical role as part of their primary duty. This locally organized training fills the gap in deployment readiness for these Airmen and gives them the additional skills needed to be an active and competent member of their unit in a deployed combat environment.

Senior Master Sgt. Miguel Diaz has been through the 729th ACS 'Dirt School' before, but this training curriculum has been expanded and was somewhat different than those of the past.

“This time they have given us a lot more opportunity to learn and practice small unit tactics, which is pretty good,” Diaz said. “Even though our unit is a tactical unit, many of our Airmen are communication troops and support guys, so this is not their primary duty. This is great to expose them to these kind of scenarios and training.”