Key Field 2015 annual training sharpens skills and builds camaraderie

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Sabrina Dalton
  • 186th Air Refueling Wing
Key Field service members convened at the Gulfport-based training center July 11 - 25 for Annual Training to better prepare for rapid global mobility and agile combat support.

Annual training prepares service members in the case that they are called on for deployments and to fulfill other mission requirements.

"As a KC-135 tanker unit in the Air Force today, no mission gets accomplished with an aircraft without tanker support.  In order to provide that support as a Guard unit, we have to be trained and ready at the same level as any of the active duty units," Col. Mike Nabors, 186th Air Refueling Wing commander, said. 

Training is an integral component of Annual Training (AT) as it allows Guardsmen to practice and refresh on a variety of topics needed to maintain mission readiness.

"One objective I had for AT this year was to get as much training as we could while we had the facilities and a large number of people available," Maj. Brad Anthony, 153rd Air Refueling Squadron pilot and acting 2015 AT detachment commander, said.

A variety of training opportunities were presented to service members over the course of AT. 

"We had some of the same training events we've had for years such as sexual assault prevention and awareness, human relations education, supervisor training, financial management, and others.  We had new training events this year as well which were some old events in new formats," Anthony said.

Something new for this year's AT was skills training, also known as Rodeo, which included hands-on self-aid buddy care (SABC) and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) training. 

"Rodeo training encompasses combat readiness training that prepares us for deployments. That's a large piece. We're doing that training for our members who are engaged and ready to go on deployments.  We're also doing our normal annual training to keep our skills at the top level throughout the year in case we're called on to deploy," Nabors said.

"The Rodeo training was really good, because it took away from doing computer based training (CBT). I enjoyed it a lot more than doing the boring CBTs," Master Sgt. Merche Copeland, Operation's aviation resource manager, said.

"CBRNE and SABC help members who will be deploying, get everybody prepared if they see improvised explosive devices, and teach us how to take care of a deployed member if they get hurt or injured. I haven't done this since basic training, so it was refreshing to do it again," Senior Airman Matthew Betts, Force Support Squadron's career enhancement manager, said.

Morale is another important component of AT.  Concerts were planned for service members during their downtime. My Savior's Story, a local Christian band, performed for service members.  Capt. Jonathan Quigley, guitarist and Communications vice commander, and Master Sgt. Tony Temple, bass player and Communications cyber transport supervisor, are members of the band. My Savior's Story has played with other national artists such as Sanctus Real, 10th Avenue North, Big Daddy Weave, and Newsboys.  The concert not only entertained, but it also recognized Lt. Col. Chaplain David Allen's last AT.  Allen has served in the military over 25 years. 

"I wanted to do something special, because Chaplain Allen has been so good to me. I really wanted it to be about him. He doesn't want to make it about him. He's such a wonderful person, has helped me out, and has been such a great mentor to this unit. Sometimes it's a thankless job for those guys," Quigley said.

Snazz is another band that performed for service members during their annual shrimp boil. 

Sporting events were also a huge part of this year's AT.  Dodgeball, basketball, volleyball, cornhole and a softball tournament led to the awarding of the Colonel's Cup. 

"The dodgeball game was a lot of fun. I'm glad we did it. I got out very quickly each time, and I got no one out.  I found out I was much better at dodgeball in the 5th grade than I am now.  And, our team had the best uniforms," Maj. Teresa Plotts, 153rd Air Refueling Squadron pilot, said.

One of Nabors' priorities for Key Field is to develop highly trained and motivated Airmen, and AT provided the opportunity to accomplish this.

"It's important not only for the training aspect of it, but it's important for the morale piece of it.  Our people are able to not only train together, but they can play together and learn to trust each other.  They learn to work well with each other, and they learn to respect each other.  This is a place where we can come once a year for two weeks to not only hone our skills in training but to hone our skills in being a family, so we are able to know that we can count on each other to do the job that we need each other to do."