Ready Now: A New Era of Reserve Citizen Airmen Training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tyler J. Bolken
  • 944th Fighter Wing

In the sprawling expanse of military training, where preparation meets purpose, a new era of readiness is being written. Reserve Citizen Airmen, traditionally seen hovering over computer-based training, are now gearing up, rifles in hand, en route to an unfamiliar, remote location. Their mission: to transcend the boundaries of their usual roles and embrace the unpredictability of combat through a rigorous training regimen designed to mirror the complexities of modern warfare.

This iteration of training for more than 75 Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 944th Fighter Wing, along with 10 Airmen from the 56th Fighter Wing, was Field Training Exercise Desert Anvil, the first of its kind conducted by the 944th Mission Support Group and the 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Florence Military Reservation in Florence, Ariz., Apr. 5-6, 2024.

The intent of this training was not a matter of choice but a necessity, driven by the evolving landscape of global threats and the realization that the battlefield does not discriminate by job specialty.

“I tasked my planning team to build a field training exercise where our agile combat support and our medical Airmen formed into a Combat Service Support Team or CSST to deploy to a bare base location,” explained Col. Reginald Trujillo Jr., 944th MSG Commander, and a native of Albuquerque, N.M. “Once there, they were to secure and defend the site as we prepped to support and enable a follow-on mission from four A-10s and 120 maintenance personnel.”

The Airmen deployed armed and ready to engage armed opposing forces as a key scenario of the training.

“The first time you hear a weapon go off in your direction shouldn’t be in the real world,” said Trujillo. “We want our Airmen to get those reps in now.”

Planning for this initiative began in January of this year and signifies a strategic shift toward more integrated and comprehensive combat readiness training centered on warrior ethos and being ready now ahead of emerging threats.

“It's all about battlefield contingency skills,” said Master Sgt. Khrystal Fleming, the lead planner for this training, and a native of Sanford, N.C. “It doesn't matter what the person next to you does, we all have each other's back and we're in it together."

In the training scenario the Reserve Citizen Airmen were deployed to what was simulated to be a potentially hostile environment and tasked to secure and defend the perimeter while ensuring the capability to readily support follow on combat forces.

"The priority for our members is to be able to successfully engage the enemy and defend their territory,” said Fleming. “The idea for the planning side is to make this training sustainable, repeatable, efficient, and effective.”

“Desert Anvil” aimed to bridge the gap between traditional training methods and the demand for high-level combat readiness against peer threats in a realistic environment. One of the ways this was achieved was through using the U.S. Army’s realistic MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System) equipment, which uses lasers and blank cartridges to simulate actual firing. Additionally, there was an increased emphasis on weapons handling and use, ensuring Airmen treat their rifles as indispensable life-saving tools.

“They're wearing equipment that lets them know if they would have been shot," said Trujillo. "I want our Airmen to get comfortable carrying and operating their weapons when needed. Today’s environment demands it.”

Trujillo also emphasized the importance of using this training to optimize the resilient mindset of the Airmen by incorporating other variables such as limited communication, unexpected injury response through TCCC (Tactical Combat Casualty Care), and the unknowns of an unfamiliar environment.

Florence Military Reservation, otherwise known as Camp Florence, was selected for its similarity to real-world, remote combat scenarios, focusing on enhancing interoperability and team cohesion among various AFSCs (Air Force Specialty Codes) and other joint forces. The location is an Arizona Army National Guard training site in the Sonoran Desert about 70 miles southeast of Phoenix.

"When we deploy down range, it's a total force integration between the active duty, guard, and reserve,” explained Trujillo. “Today, you can't tell who's a guardsman, who's a reservist, or who's active duty, which is how it should be."

The integration of diverse military units and the sharing of knowledge and resources is pivotal in enhancing the overall readiness, effectiveness, and success of this training, explained Fleming.

The journey from the classroom to the combat zone, from apprehension to proficiency, is a testament to the enduring spirit of readiness that defines the Reserve Citizen Airman.

“It felt like going back to the roots of what it means to be an Airman,” said Senior Airman Jose Juan Huerta Ascencio, a services journeyman with 944th Force Support Squadron. “What stood out to me most is it wasn’t just combat Airmen that were put into this training, but it was everyone.”

The forward-looking approach of the 944th FW, through training events like “Desert Anvil”, showcases the Air Force's commitment to preparing its Airmen for the multifaceted challenges of modern warfare and this era of great power competition. By fostering a culture of readiness that adapts to evolving military challenges, the Air Force ensures that its personnel are not just trained but proficient and ready to face any adversary.

“We have to get in the reps and start building muscle memory,” said Trujillo.

As the global security environment continues to change, the Air Force's dedication to innovative training and operational readiness remains a cornerstone of its strategy to protect and serve the nation effectively.