DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- Air Force Special Operations Air Warfare Center and the 919th Special Operations Wing sent Airmen to the U.S. Army's Joint Readiness Training Center Sept. 7 for a month-long, large-scale deployment simulation to help meet the rigorous, time-consuming training requirements to become a fully qualified combat aviation advisor, .
For the first time, 14 special operations Airmen deployed as a CAA team to Fort Polk, Louisiana, to participate in the Army exercise.
"This training opportunity is on par with replicated experiences we would encounter in a real world deployed environment," said Maj. Michael McGee, 919th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron commander. "The events that occur are played out to the fullest to provide as real an experience as possible."
AFSOAWC has approved the Army JRTC exercise to meet a portion of Air Force instruction criteria necessary to fulfill the supervised deployment training requirement. It takes approximately a year and a half to become a fully qualified CAA, depending on the member's career field, previous military experience and language training requirements.
"The increase in the amount of reservists in the CAA training pipeline and the shortage of real-world deployments makes the JRTC venue necessary to meet the wing's mission capability on time," said McGee.
This new training is also AFSOAWC's initial step into defining and committing to the Air Force special operation's role in unconventional warfare.
"This is our first stab at building AFSOC doctrine on how to conduct operations and support as part of an unconventional warfare campaign," said McGee.
Prior to leaving for JRTC, the CAA team members completed a five-day, pre-deployment 'spin-up' to prepare for the field.
The course covered unconventional warfare academics, survival-evasion-resistance and escape, land navigation, partner nation interaction and medical evacuation among other training elements.
"It was a good refresher of the MQC (mission qualification course) training," said Senior Master Sgt. Bruce Tims, a CAA with the 919th Special Operations Support Squadron and team sergeant for the JRTC exercise. "This course tries to put everything together into one linear exercise that forces you to use the various specialties in a dynamic environment and prepare you for down range."
New CAAs typically begin their training with the MQC, located at Hurlburt Field. MQC introduces the Airmen to the aviation foreign internal defense mission and provides special operations tactics specific to their new mission. Language training, a supervised deployment, job specific tasks and other requirements must be completed as well before an Airman can become a fully qualified advisor.
The 919th SOW's new AvFID mission has provided many reservists in mission support career fields the opportunity to be part of and even deploy as special operators. Many attending this JRTC exercise are from the wing's support squadrons.
"This new training opportunity for our Citizen Airmen will advance the wing's new mission capability," said Col. Jim Phillips, 919th SOW commander. "A fully qualified reservist CAA only serves to strengthen our total force integration relationship with our AFSOC counterparts."
Based on the experiences and feedback provided by the initial group of JRTC deployers, the AFSOAWC will determine the applicability of the exercise and the feasibility of sending more CAAs to complete portions of their training requirements.
An obvious benefit of the JRTC exercise is the numerous opportunities over the course of the year to provide uninterrupted, full mission profile training to the participants. Additionally, this training comes at a significant financial savings over some other equivalent options. A simple temporary duty assignment compared to a full deployment will save Air Force funds, according to Tims.
"The cost-savings of a TDY two states over, compared with a deployment to the other side of the world is sure to be significant," said Tims, a 22-year veteran.
As the reserve wing and the new center grow and change within their special operations mission, they will continue to seek out and leverage more training opportunities to meet their goals. The JRTC exercise is just one example.
Together with their active duty counterparts, 919th SOW reservists are helping the new AFSOAWC increase its capabilities and missions to keep the CAA charter of 'advise, assist, train and assess' moving forward.