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Exercise Thunderdome: Preparing Airmen for worldwide deployments

Airman 1st Class David Long, 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance technician, left, and Senior Airman Kyle Wilson, 4th Logistics Readiness Squadron air operations specialist, right, secure cargo straps on palletized bags during Exercise Thunderdome 17-03, Nov. 30, 2017, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. After being secured, the pallets are weighed, measured and inspected. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Victoria Boyton)

Tech. Sgt. Samone Hallums (left), 4th Logistics Readiness deployment NCO in charge, and Senior Airman Lurenza Hutchison, 4th Force Support Squadron career development technician, exchange paperwork during a simulated pre-deployment for Exercise Thunderdome 17-03, Dec. 1, 2017, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. This exercise assessed the overall capability based on the Personnel and Cargo Deployment Functions to process and depart chalks on time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Miranda A. Loera)

Airmen from the 4th Fighter Wing participate in Exercise Thunderdome 17-03, Nov 30, 2017, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. The exercise tested the wing’s capabilities to provide air superiority at a moment’s notice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Victoria Boyton)

Airman 1st Class Cristopher Echevarria Arroyo, left, 4th Component Maintenance Squadron avionics apprentice, and Staff Sgt. Gregory Elliott, 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, simulate a wand test during a processing line for Exercise Thunderdome 17-03, Dec. 1, 2017, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. More than 100 members of Seymour Johnson participated in the exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Miranda A. Loera)

Airman 1st Class Nathan Stripling, 4th Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, left, directs a fork lift driven by Senior Airman Paul Carress, 4th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance technician, right, during Exercise Thunderdome 17-03, Nov. 30, 2017, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. The exercise served to evaluate the 4th Fighter Wing’s ability to rapidly deploy Airmen and aircraft for contingency operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Victoria Boyton)

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --

Seymour Johnson conducted a three-day exercise to assess the overall capability and readiness of the base.

According to Lt. Col. Matthew Worling, 4th Fighter Wing inspector general Exercise Thunderdome 17-03 planner, these exercises are created to test every aspect of a base to ensure it is deployment ready. From aircraft generation to medical processing, the focus is to learn where the weaknesses are, train Airmen, and to have Airmen become familiar with short-notice deployments.

“Air Force headquarters sends in annual mission assurance exercise requirements that have to be completed,” said Worling. “During this exercise we wanted to focus primarily on improving the personnel and cargo portion of a deployment.”

Worling said they prioritized the focus on high-risk areas on base, or an area which can improve efficiency.

Tech. Sgt. Samone Hallums, 4th Logistics Readiness Squadron deployment NCO in charge, was one of the many participants in Thunderdome 17-03.

“My task during this exercise was to go through the processing line and ensure I was ready to deploy,” said Hallums, “Which is very important, considering this is a real-life exercise. Anything can happen at a moment’s notice and you just want to ensure that everyone is prepared.”

During a deployment processing line, members of medical, finance, the judge advocate and chaplains are there to ensure a smooth route.

Members of the 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron work on the outside of a deployment processing line. From weighing pallets to directing fork lifts, they ensure all the bags and items are secure and within regulations before loading on to the aircraft.

From ensuring all bags are packed and within regulations to being the lead for her chalk and being responsible for everyone of a lower rank, Hallums added this exercise not only helped her, but also the Airmen who have never been in a scenario similar to Thunderdome 17-03.

During the exercise, members of the wing inspection team oversee what goes and take notes. Even prior to the exercise, WIT members spend months planning and creating injects. Afterward reports are made, they attend debriefings to exchange notes about the exercise.

Master Sgt. Julie Nix, 4th Force Support Squadron lodging section chief, acted as the FSS lead WIT member.

“My function as a WIT member is to make sure the wing is executing the mission quickly and efficiently,” said Nix. “We take notes throughout the exercise for debriefing and also help with on-the-spot adjustments.”

Nix said her job was important because she directly supervised those participating and was able to help guarantee they knew the importance of what they were doing.

Although the exercise was only three days, it presented an opportunity to fine-tune the wing’s deployment processes.

“We went through this exercise in the hopes that we can build muscle memory on what we are learning throughout the procedures,” said Worling. “We have a lot of younger Airmen and a lot of folks who have never experienced an exercise or training before, so part of this is to expose them to those types of pressures and help them learn the weaknesses we need to strengthen. If we ever have to do short-notice deployments, we will know what to do and know we are proficient in the job.”