419th FSS builds confidence with successful Expeditionary Skills Training week

  • Published
  • By Colonel Gregory Kuzma, 419th Mission Support Group
  • 419th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 419th Force Support Squadron (FSS) recently concluded a five-day Expeditionary Skills training event at the Hill AFB's Base Operations Readiness Training Area from 6 to10 May, 2024. This intensive program aimed to sharpen the FSS Airmen's core task capabilities for deployed operations by equipping them with critical skills and knowledge. It also expanded their warrior skills with self-defense training, how to operate under duress, and conducting distributed Agile Combat Employment (ACE) operations.  

The training balanced classroom instruction with practical field exercises for over 50 participants, encompassing a diverse range of specialties from military personnel flight, education & training, military & family readiness, cyber, and sustainment services, working with Base Expeditionary Airfield Resources assets. This included learning the intricacies of establishing, operating, and sustaining an airbase in various deployment scenarios in a Great Power Competition conflict. Additionally, the training emphasized safety and accountability, with realistic simulations using training rifles to reinforce proper weapon handling procedures.

"We need to be ready for a future fight that is unlike one we have fought in the past 30 years, anywhere on the planet," said Col. Gregory Kuzma, 419th Mission Support Group commander. "This type of training will shift the focus of a traditional agile combat support role to one that is more adaptable and resilient on an individual Airmen level."   

The week's success stemmed from several key factors. Meticulous planning by the 419th FSS leadership team ensured all resources, from training facilities to food and morale-boosting activities, were readily available. The ability to adapt to unexpected weather changes also further demonstrated the flexibility and teamwork displayed by participants and instructors alike.

"We wanted to do more than just classroom learning and getting out into the field reminded us of what we can do as warrior Airmen," said Maj. Jessica Hennig, 419th FSS commander. "Overall, the training was a great confidence booster. Learning self-defense and base defense skills will help us be more prepared for anything in a contested environment."

This sentiment highlights the program's success in bridging the gap between theory and practical application, ultimately boosting the confidence and preparedness of the Airmen. Feedback from the Airmen was overwhelmingly positive. They lauded the effectiveness of incorporating friendly competition to boost morale and build teamwork. Recognition of individual and team achievements at the end of the week further solidified the importance of the training and instilled a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie.

In addition to having several AFRC Silver Flag instructors on site to facilitate the core task training, the 419th Security Forces Squadron, 75th Security Forces Squadron, and the West Valley SWAT provided combative techniques, base defense, and weapons handling instruction. They received praise for their expertise and ability to tailor the training to a diverse group of participants. Some comments included, “Please utilize all of Annual Tour for exercises like these”, “I would like to have more training like this in the future”, and “It would be great if we did this with other units and at different locations”.

The valuable lessons learned during this event will be used to further refine future training programs. These include the positive impact of team-building activities, the need for readily available cold weather gear, and the importance of considering different perspectives when presenting potentially sensitive topics like self-defense.

Overall, the 419th FSS Expeditionary Skills training event served as a resounding success. By equipping Airmen with essential skills and fostering a spirit of teamwork, the program has significantly enhanced the squadron's readiness for future deployments.