Tennessee Air Guardsmen travel to Hawaii for unique training opportunities

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Teri Eicher
  • 134th Civil Engineering Squadron

The American military force is expected to be the most highly trained, highly skilled, mission-ready lethal force in the world. As members of the Air National Guard, the reality is that our members have to juggle their home lives, civilian jobs, and school, in addition to the requirements of their military service.

National Guardsmen meet for two days per month to accomplish their essential training, along with two weeks of annual field training as a supplement. Even with this dedicated time, Airmen are often required to complete skills and professional development courses in their own time. This can be a valuable benefit for those who want to continue serving but are unable to take months off of their home life to attend in-residence courses.

While these opportunities allow for flexibility, there are certain experiences that are impossible to reproduce from a book. With this in mind, the 134th Civil Engineering Squadron set out to create a deployment for training with Airmen, and the goal to provide them new and valuable experiences.

“When we built the training schedule, we wanted to talk about professional development,” said Lt. Col. David Barrett, Civil Engineering Squadron Commander. “AFSC training is important, professional development is important, personal development is important. What I found was there’s a lot of things that our Airmen don’t know about, and this field training gives us an opportunity to sit down and talk about some of those things.”

The Civil Engineering Squadron is most often associated with the sort of hands-on work that builds and sustains bases, and that is often how they train. However, on this trip they deliberately set a different pace in order to provide a more well-rounded experience.

“In the past we’ve come and done projects, like the renovation of a duplex,” Lt. Col. Barrett said. “And sometimes when we do that, we don’t have the opportunity to slow down and be deliberate about the way that we train our Airmen. So this annual field training, I encouraged our NCO’s to slow down, to teach people, to walk them through it in a much slower manner so they understood it, and that way when our Airmen deploy they will have a better understanding of the ‘why’ that we do the things that we do.”

That said, there is still plenty of hands-on training to be accomplished, and the location on the island of Oahu provided a plethora of unique advantages.

“The reason we picked this location is the availability of the training areas that are bare base set-ups, so we’re able to utilize the skills that we would in a deployed environment,” explained Chief Master Sgt. James Cutshaw, Chief Enlisted Manager of the 134th Civil Engineering Squadron. “Our water fuels team has been able to work with the Navy on some equipment that they would see in a deployed environment that was not available anywhere else. We’ve also had our Fire and Emergency Rescue team work with the Marine Corps over on the north side of the island to do some of their AFSC training. We’ve worked with our active duty counterparts at Bellows Air Force Station; the situation there is more of the environment you’d see at a deployed location. We were able to use our Engineering Assistants to lay stuff out, we were able to utilize heavy equipment to clear roadways and runways, and we had our HVAC personnel installing units that they would see in a deployed environment as well.”

In addition to explicit military requirements, there are other benefits to squadron trips for training, particularly for members who only spend a handful of hours together every month.

“This affords us a much better opportunity than we would get at home station,” said Lt. Col. Barrett. “I think a lot of Airmen feel isolated in their shops, and they don’t have a lot of opportunities to connect with each other. So now we’ve given them an opportunity to connect while also growing in their skill set.