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28th MSG performs exercises for excellence

Airman 1st Class Wintera Jones, 28th Force Support Squadron personnel technician, practices high crawling during a 28th Mission Support Group deployment readiness exercise in the Pride Hangar at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Feb. 14, 2013. The 28th Security Forces Squadron hosted the exercise which focused on cover and concealment, M-4 carbine and M-9 handgun familiarization and what to do in the event of an active shooter scenario. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman Ashley J. Thum/Released)

Airman 1st Class Wintera Jones, 28th Force Support Squadron personnel technician, practices high crawling during a 28th Mission Support Group deployment readiness exercise in the Pride Hangar at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Feb. 14, 2013. The 28th Security Forces Squadron hosted the exercise which focused on cover and concealment, M-4 carbine and M-9 handgun familiarization and what to do in the event of an active shooter scenario. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman Ashley J. Thum/Released)

Senior Airman Alex Price, 28th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems technician, exits a bus during a 28th Mission Support Group deployment readiness exercise outside the Deployment Center at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Dec. 14, 2012. The 28th MSG conducts monthly exercises to ensure its Airmen are in a constant state of combat readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Ashley J. Woolridge/Released)

Senior Airman Alex Price, 28th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems technician, exits a bus during a 28th Mission Support Group deployment readiness exercise outside the Deployment Center at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Dec. 14, 2012. The 28th MSG conducts monthly exercises to ensure its Airmen are in a constant state of combat readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Ashley J. Woolridge/Released)

Airman 1st Class Kristopher Esparza, 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron Aircraft Parts Store technician, dons his backpack after it was X-rayed during a deployment readiness exercise at the Deployment Center on Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Dec. 14, 2012. Esparza was one of approximately 164 Airmen who participated in the exercise hosted by the 28th LRS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Ashley J. Woolridge/Released)

Airman 1st Class Kristopher Esparza, 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron Aircraft Parts Store technician, dons his backpack after it was X-rayed during a deployment readiness exercise at the Deployment Center on Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Dec. 14, 2012. Esparza was one of approximately 164 Airmen who participated in the exercise hosted by the 28th LRS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Ashley J. Woolridge/Released)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Airmen can be deployed at any time, which makes it imperative for them to maintain constant combat readiness.

The base periodically conducts operational readiness exercises, but recently the 28th Mission Support Group took matters into their own hands.

Through a series of training workshops - involving both hands-on activities and instructional briefings - Airmen from the 28th MSG enacted every aspect of a real-world tasking.

Lt. Col. Michael Petrocco, 28th MSG deputy commander, explained the training's sole purpose was to be able to deploy combat-ready Airmen to the Joint Warfighter.

"From knowing their AEF (Air Expeditionary Force) indicator, to the specific job they will perform while deployed, readiness exercises are designed to test and sharpen the skills our Airmen need in a deployed environment," Petrocco said. "These exercises also help provide a boost of confidence to our Airmen before having to deploy."

The discussion of different operational plans detailing several hypothetical scenarios forced leaders from each of the group's six squadrons to form a line of action in the event of a deployment. Specific task-related training then allowed Airmen to develop the necessary skill set for a combat environment.

Staff Sgt. Joseph Kellner, 28th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, helped administer an exercise in October, which focused largely on identifying and securing unexploded ordnance.

"In the briefing, we covered the five `C's (confirm, cordon, control, check and control), what they mean, and how to implement them safely," Kellner noted. "We also explained how to fill out a nine-line (UXO) card."

While in the Pride Hangar, Airmen also had the opportunity to practice reading M-8 chemical detection paper and covering assets to protect them from enemy strikes.

"You never know when you are going to find a UXO or a dud from indirect fire," Kellner said when explaining the importance of the exercise. "It is important to address the situation calmly and safely to not only protect yourself, but your fellow brothers and sisters in arms."

The 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron also hosted a training day in December to perfect the mobility process in the base Deployment Center.

Rick Schroeder, 28th LRS installation deployment officer, said more than 150 volunteers from the 28th MSG acted as deploying Airmen to allow the 28th LRS and the 28th Force Support Squadron to practice processing personnel efficiently.

"When the day was done, a process that normally took 10 to 12 hours was reduced to a little more than three hours," Schroeder said. "With all the behind-the-scenes actions that are required for military transport that are not done at a civilian airport, this is more than comparable to time spent at our local airport."

Schroeder, who helped plan and execute the event, said the exercise leaned toward deployments "en masse," with smaller deploying groups as a secondary focus.

"We succeeded in reducing time spent in the Deployment Center, which equates to more time for the deployer to spend elsewhere - such as with family, friends or their unit," Schroeder added.

Staff Sgt. William Zimmerman, 28th Security Forces Squadron training instructor, helped monitor a February exercise to train Airmen on dealing with active shooters and familiarize themselves with M-4 carbines and M-9 handguns.

"I taught the cover and concealment portion of the training," Zimmerman said. "We went over the `high crawl' and the `low crawl,' and I explained the benefits of each and when to use them."

Zimmerman added security plays an integral role in the Air Force's expeditionary forces, making base defense training a vital part of the 28th MSG's deployment readiness initiative.

With fiscal and tactical environments in a constant state of flux, Ellsworth's ability to train and deploy capable Airmen while optimizing the use of base resources is a valuable trait.

"If we deploy efficiently and effectively, we not only support the combatant commanders with getting the right people there at the right time, but we do so as a wing with less manpower, less time and less money - three commodities that are in short supply these days," Schroeder said.

Petrocco emphasized the 28th MSG will continue to make readiness rehearsals a priority, adding practice is the only way to truly prepare for a combat tasking.

"From day one, our commander (Col. Thomas Goulter, 28th MSG commander), has emphasized to every Airman the importance of understanding the deployment process, the roles and responsibilities they have while deployed and maintaining combat readiness," Petrocco said.

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