Joint Base Elmendorf – Richardson Community
Ohio National Guard Travels to the Last Frontier
Story by SrA Kregg York on 09/15/2019
Every year, Airmen in the Air National Guard leave their home base and families, usually for multiple weeks at a time, to get some extra training, or training not easily available back home. This ensures that they are ready to deploy anywhere in the world.
More than 40 members from the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing and 179th Airlift Wing traveled to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for annual training in late August, 2019.
Each section of the 180FW has their own role within the mission, and their own training to develop.
The Medical Group has an important job within the Air Force. The role of the clinic at the 180FW and 179AW is to ensure Airmen are medically deployable by keeping immunization records up to date, conducting physicals and assessing overall health.
With a majority of the Airmen only being on base one weekend per month, having a large hospital on base with a full staff isn’t practical, so Air National Guard Wings will usually have a small clinic. However, if any medical staff get deployed to an active duty base, or overseas, they will need all of the skill-sets that a full-scale hospital requires. The 673rd Medical Group Hospital on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or JBER, is a fully functional hospital and provides Airmen with an environment to enhance their skills.
“Everyone who doesn’t do nursing full time, we don’t really get the experience with IVs and any emergency room experience.” said Senior Airman Skylar Quintero, an aerospace medical technician assigned to the 180FW. “Not all of us are working in the lab full time, so being able to work on my technique here, I’ll be able to do that back home at the 180th.”
Members of the 180FW and 179AW weren’t the only ones benefiting from this training. Due to 673rd Medical staff transferring to other bases, illnesses and taking leave, the Ohio Guard members were able to fill some of those vacant roles.
“Us being here, whether it’s doing vitals, or taking patients to CT, or doing IVs, it’s really helpful and we’ve had more than a decent amount of people thanking us for helping out. So, that’s nice to hear,” Skylar said.
Along with hands-on training, Airmen also received Tactical Combat Casualty Care training. This training is specifically designed for combat zone environments and can help save lives in deployed locations.
Vehicle Maintainers do exactly what their name implies.
“Anything that refuels the jets or fire trucks, snow removal equipment and construction equipment, we keep all of that equipment safe and serviceable and ready to use,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Warren, a vehicle maintenance mechanic assigned to the 180FW.
JBER has the largest snow removal fleet in the Air Force. While some of the equipment is similar at the 180FW, our Airmen have more opportunities to work on the equipment for longer than one weekend at a time.
JBER supports some missions that the 180FW does not. As a result, JBER has pieces of equipment 180FW maintainers aren’t as familiar with.
“I have very little experience on the 60k and 25k cargo loaders,” Warren said, “So I was very interested in getting my hands in some of their work on the loaders, because we don’t have them at our base. Since we’re a fighter wing, we have no need to move that much cargo around,” Warren said.
Training on diverse equipment ensure that Airmen are ready to deploy and support the mission anywhere in the world.
“You never know when we’ll be called up,” Warren said. “If we need to go somewhere and support a mission somewhere, we need to be able to fix this equipment. It makes us more ready and able to support the mission,” Warren said.
“Services is based on five different parts,” said Staff Sgt. David Bousonville, a Services Airman assigned to the 180FW. “It’s food, fitness, mortuary, morale and readiness.”
Services provides meals for Airmen, maintain fitness centers, administer fitness tests, handle mortuary affairs of fallen service members and help improve overall Airman morale and readiness.
While at JBER, 180FW Services Airmen were able to work in a dining facility that uses newer food system allowing them to order different foods, serve dependents of service members, and provide a more “campus” feel.
They also had the opportunity to work at the fitness center on base, and learn a new way of tracking fitness test data using spreadsheets. Using this spreadsheet system, commanders will have a more accurate view of service members overall fitness.
“It makes it a lot easier than sifting through the physical paperwork,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Spencer, a services Airman assigned to the 180FW.
By providing commanders with a better view of an Airman’s physical fitness, they help commanders ensure that their Airmen are fit to fight.
Public Affairs has the responsibility of communicating with service members and the public. It’s their job to show the local, national and global communities what the Air Force is doing in the world and the role our Airmen play in the Total Force. This includes taking photos, writing articles, making videos, press conferences and press releases. Public Affairs serves as a liaison between the Air Force and the American public.
“Coming to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson with so many different career fields was extremely beneficial,” said Capt. Matthew Eck, a public affairs officer assigned to the 180FW. “We were granted great access to see what it takes for 180th Fighter Wing and 179th Airlift Wing personnel to accomplish their missions. We learned a lot about our hard-working Airmen, which enabled us to turn that access into products for others to also learn about their roles to support the mission.”
During their training, Public Affairs produced multiple videos, photos, articles and social media posts, effectively communicating the training to the American public.
The Command Post has a vital function at any Air Force Base.
“We’re the eyes and ears of the base,” said Tech Sgt. Brian Best, a command and control operator assigned to the 180FW.
“We’re launching the F-16s, sending emergency notifications, as well as being a liaison for the command staff and helping notify them for important events,” added Zac Westrick, a command and control operator assigned to the 180FW.
“We were able to be a part of two practice jet scrambles, and participate in an active shooter exercise, so we helped send out messages and answer phones,” Best said.
“They have nine different missions they are responsible for, all at the same time,” Westrick said. “We don’t have that. So, I think that was the biggest struggle for us so far is just realizing that they have a much larger footprint to cover than we do at home and trying to balance it a little bit easier.”
During their training, the Command Post also participated in multiple simultaneous exercises.
“It was zero to one-hundred in two seconds flat,” said Westrick. “Literally, people were running back and forth, trying to prioritize. It was probably the biggest exercise I’ve been a part of at the ground-level. We were really impressed with the controllers here and how well they worked as a team.”
The Command Post Airmen learned a lot from their active counterparts, including new practices to streamline their workflow.
“It’s been great, and I’m really excited to get back and start helping implement those changes,” Best said.
“We love having the 179th and 180th,” said Capt. Jenny Ward, the medical administrative officer assigned to the 176th medical group at JBER. “They have a good leadership team and did a lot of pre-planning, which ensures that their trip is going to go smoothly.”
The Airmen from the 180FW and 179AW have learned new skills and practices that they can implement back at their home units. While their training has come and gone, more Airmen will continue to go on trainings like this. Every one of these trainings is an opportunity for Airmen to grow and make the Ohio National Guard and the Air Force, as a whole, even better.