SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
On a cold autumn morning, F-16CM Fighting Falcon maintainers scramble to put on gas masks and look over their wingmen for potential leaks in mission oriented protective posture gear, which could compromise the clothing’s ability to deter the effects of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats.
After a few minutes, the alarm changes and the conglomeration of tactical aircraft maintainers, avionics specialists and other skilled technicians break and go their separate ways, working as a team to ensure Shaw Weasels receive the training they need to stay ready.
The 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS), 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, and the 55th Fighter Squadron participated in the first Rapid Ready Weasel exercise Nov. 16.
Rapid Ready Weasel exercises are designed to provide young leaders the opportunity to make challenging, mission-related decisions.
Capt. Tom Mueller, 55th FS chief of mobility and exercise acting mission director, said this exercise will hopefully provide concentrated training as opposed to other training methods such as operational readiness exercises.
“The big difference is we are able to tailor the entire exercise to meet our desired learning objectives,” Mueller said.
The new training exercise focuses on flightline capabilities to align with Air Combat Command priorities such as tactical proficiency and the ability to rapidly deploy and employ combat airpower.
“You have to be ready at all times for any kind of combat situation that we could come into contact with,” said Airman 1st Class Curtis Hummel, 20th AMXS avionics specialist and exercise participant. “Our unit does deploy … so we have to be prepared for that.”
During the exercise, maintainers and pilots worked together to launch and accomplish defensive counter-air sorties while overcoming obstacles such as the cold weather as well as simulated fires, CBRN threats, and communication failures.
Hummel said his unit’s wingmanship helped them overcome the obstacles presented to them.
“If somebody doesn’t understand what’s going on, it’s your responsibility to make sure that they do know what’s going on,” Hummel explained. “Also, if I’m not doing something right, somebody’s going to tell me I’m not doing something right. We’ve all got each other’s backs out here and that’s how it is when you deploy.”
Approximately 200 pilots and maintainers participated in the Rapid Ready Weasel exercise to hone their decision making and technical skills and increase overall unit readiness. By preparing for a variety of potential obstacles ahead of time, Shaw Weasels can continue to provide the suppression of enemy air defenses and combat F-16 airpower while deployed.