Sustainment Training

CMSgt Tamala L. Hartz

In the last 18-months the Security Forces career field has focused on improving our training. We have enlisted the assistance of numerous senior and mid-level leaders from several organizations. We have spoken to hundreds of Airmen asking them about their training experiences and how their training has prepared them for defending our Air Force. We developed a concept that establishes training and education as a career long, life-cycle process. We have examined training processes for our newest Airmen and Lieutenants up through CMSgts and commanders. We have had meetings, conferences, site visits, and involvement from Air Force senior leaders. Having done what we consider to be due diligence in our analysis and research efforts, the time for talking is about to be overtaken by doing.

While meetings, conferences, site visits, and senior leader involvement must continue, the focus will be less on what needs to happen and more on what is happening. Some of the things that will happen will require major paradigm shifts in how our career field thinks about training. One of the major changes that will require a significant adjustment is the shift from just-in-time pre-deployment training to sustained collective skills training. It is this change that we will discuss in this article.

I will not delve too deeply into a career field history lesson except to say that during the peaks times of Operations IRAQI FREEDOM and ENDURING FREEDOM the career field shifted a good portion of its training attention to Regional Training Centers (RTC). After 9/11 we found ourselves confronted with fighting in two named operations, an elevated home station ops tempo and limited resourcing. Approximately one third of our Defenders or more were going forward into combat zones every 10 – 12 months. There was not time or money to change formal training venues to meet the emerging threats. We had to go ‘now’ which meant we needed to train now. Appropriately, the responsibility to deliver the just-in-time training for those Defenders deploying, fell to the RTCs.

Even the RTCs found it difficult to stay abreast of the enemy tactics, techniques and procedures while adjusting from local theater-specific demands to CENTCOM realities. What these training venues had going for them was a strong cadre, resilient leadership, less cumbersome administrative requirements, and funding specifically aligned to support contingency operations. As Defenders always do, we made it happen and turned out the best-trained Defenders. However, as with all things in the Air Force, our just-in-time training approach would have a shelf life. We have reached that shelf life and exceeded it, which is why sustainment training is needed.

By turning on the news, each and every day we witness that our threat now is not restricted to what we widely consider combat zones. The threat our Defenders face today can be on a train in France, an airport in Germany, the main gate at Travis AFB, or any other location where someone wants to cause our Air Force harm. It is because of these threats we have to prepare for the expected and the unexpected. So how will collective skills training help? We are creating Defenders who can spot potential threats as they evolve, gather and employ resources available in the moment, and act immediately to neutralize the threat.

There are two primary reasons for sustainment training. First, it prepares Defenders to meet current and emerging threats in the short and long term. Second, the consequences of not doing it are potentially dangerous not just for our Defenders but also those they protect. Essentially sustainment training is designed so that every Defender attends training at specific intervals in their career, regardless of whether they are scheduled to deploy or not. While at these training centers, Defenders will get exposure to training designed to prepare them for the next advancement in his/her career, the newest equipment, advanced weapons handling, and much more. This training is not focused solely on a specific mission, but rather is constructed so that the skills acquired can be used both at home station and deployed locations.

On a closing note even though our Defenders currently enjoy a less demanding deployment rotation and relatively peaceful home stations, this will not always be the case. This time, right now, is our chance to prepare for the future while securing the present. It is time to start training!


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