The 56th Civil Engineer Squadron embarked on an annual training exercise to help them prepare for deployments known as Prime BEEF Nov. 13 and 14 at Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field in Arizona.
CES Airmen participated in bivouac training, which included scenarios that challenged their job knowledge, operational capabilities and decision-making skills.
“It’s critical that we provide the opportunity for our Airmen to train in real-world environments,” said 1st Lt. Benjamin Fink, 56th CES Emergency Management Flight officer. “The austere Gila Bend location helped provide some realism to our training and brought the exercise to the next level.”
CES departed Luke Air Force Base and arrived at a dirt lot in Gila Bend to begin the exercise. The engineers’ first order of business was to set up an operational base, built from the ground up, running and fully functional before sundown. Their first training scenario took place while building the tents. Simulated terrorists attempted to enter the base. This was one of the new elements added to the bivouac.
CES leadership assigned a group of Airmen to take defensive fighting positions and secure the area while the rest of CES finished building camp.
“This was a chance to test our Airmen’s readiness and to make sure they’re prepared for anything,” said Master Sgt. Robert Dwyer, 56th CES Prime BEEF manager. “You never know what’s going to happen when you’re downrange, so it’s important to prepare now.”
The empty dirt lot turned into a temporary encampment in about two hours. The Airmen had an hour to unpack and get situated in their tents before evening formation. After the formation, the Airmen were released, but the camp was on Force Protection Condition Charlie, so they couldn’t leave the tents. The camp lights were shut off and Airmen at defensive fighting positions used night-vision goggles to scan the area for potential threats. By 8 p.m. the camp was at Force Protection Condition Alpha and the CES Airmen were able to shower and prepare for the long day ahead.
The exercise began with simulated ground attacks. The Airman at the DFPs defended the base while everyone else went into their tents for protection. There were dedicated runners who would run to different DFPs to deliver information received from the commanding office. The exercise scenario then changed from ground attacks to air attacks. The tents became simulated hard-sheltered buildings and the DFPs were simulated underground bunkers. There were simulated injuries during the attacks and runners used their self-aid and buddy care skills to save the Airmen.
“The bivouac allowed civil engineers to practice our critical wartime tasks,” Fink said. “The way our squadron went to work and got the job done once we had ‘boots on the ground’ was amazing to watch.”
After the simulated attacks, they began the last of their exercises – land navigation.
They split the camp into two teams. Each team had four squads. Their mission was to use a digital compass to type in the coordinates and find the locations. There were eight checkpoints total. Each checkpoint had a different event to complete, such as team blindfold course, identifying unexploded ordnance, a Humvee push and more.
“This experience has been great for us as a unit,” Dwyer said. “We do the computer-based trainings, but this training was a chance to apply what our Airmen learn online to the real world so they will be able to implement it during deployments.”