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MacDill AFB integrates MWDs, joint force counter-IED training

U.S. Air Force Airmen with the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight, the 6th Security Forces Squadron and the 927th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, respond to a simulated threat during a field training exercise Dec. 11, 2019, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The training exercise was intended to put the Airmen through difficult scenarios in an austere environment, where they could practice skills that cannot be replicated at home station.

Airmen with the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight, the 6th Security Forces Squadron and the 927th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, respond to a simulated threat during a field training exercise Dec. 11, 2019, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. The training exercise put the Airmen through difficult scenarios in an austere environment where they could practice skills that cannot be replicated at home station. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shannon Bowman)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brian Lepes, a 6th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) military working dog (MWD) handler, and MWD Zeno, walk along a road during a field training exercise Dec. 11, 2019, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla.  The 6th SFS MWD handlers trained on explosive ordnance detection procedures with the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal flight, to better integrate training between units.

Staff Sgt. Brian Lepes, a 6th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and MWD, Zeno, walk along a road during a field training exercise at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla., Dec. 11, 2019. The 6th SFS MWD handlers trained on explosive ordnance detection procedures with the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron’s explosive ordnance disposal flight, to better integrate training between units. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Shannon Bowman)

U.S. Army Spc. Malaysia Hill, a veterinary technician with Public Health Activity, Fort Gordon, MacDill branch veterinary service, gives a briefing, to U.S. Air Force Airmen from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., on how to provide emergency care to military working dogs (MWD), during a field training exercise Dec. 11, 2019, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla.  Hill advised the Airmen on procedures and precautions to ensure the health and wellbeing of MWDs, while in high threat scenarios.

U.S. Army Spc. Malaysia Hill, a veterinary technician with Public Health Activity, Fort Gordon, MacDill Branch veterinary service, gives a briefing to Airmen from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., on how to provide emergency care to military working dogs during a field training exercise at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla., Dec. 12, 2019. Hill advised the Airmen on procedures and precautions to ensure the health and wellbeing of MWDs while in high-threat scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo Airman 1st Class Shannon Bowman)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) --

Success on the battlefield is dependent upon the ability of Airmen to execute their duties at an optimum level. Units from different specialties lean on each other’s experience and expertise to be able to execute missions with precision.

For Airmen to perform without hesitation downrange, teams must be willing to go outside the wire to perform sweeps and provide security.

Among those on the front line are Airmen with the 6th Civil Engineer Squadron’s explosive ordnance disposal flight and the 6th Security Forces Squadron. These units take on the risk and the responsibility of ensuring the safety of their fellow Airmen.

For this reason, the 6th CES/EOD flight held an integrated training with 6th SFS military working dog teams, aeromedical technicians with the 927th Aeromedical Staging Squadron and veterinary technicians with the U.S. Army Public Health Activity, Fort Gordon, Georgia – MacDill Air Force Base branch, from Dec. 9-13, at MacDill Air Force Base and Avon Park Air Force Range.

The training allowed the participating units to integrate their field training operations so that they could build an understanding of how the teams can more effectively operate as a single unit.

What began with classroom instruction at MacDill AFB transferred to a three-day long field training exercise, or FTX, at Avon Park AFR consisting of land navigation, tactical combat casualty care, or TCCC, defensive fighting scenarios and dismounted counter-improvised explosive device operations.

“We identified a need for more EOD field training and we wanted to set up an exercise to fully integrate with MWD handlers so we can share our standard operating procedures and learn how each team operates in the field,” said Staff Sgt. Alexander Thibodeaux, a 6th CES/EOD team leader.

According to Staff Sgt. Brian Lepes, a 6th SFS MWD handler, the exercise was a great learning experience for the MWD teams.

“Participating in these trainings is a huge benefit because we get to practice procedures that are essential for down-range operations,” Lepes said. “We then use the knowledge gained and pass it on to other handlers back at our home kennel.”

Lepes explained that the exercise allowed the 6th SFS MWD handlers to demonstrate what they bring to the fight.

“We get to show the capabilities of our teams, how we lead from the front and can serve as a major force multiplier,” he said.

The 927th ASTS and U.S. Army Public Health Activity added another dynamic contribution to the exercise by providing instruction on TCCC and MWD emergency care.

“It is important to incorporate the basics of emergency care into field training,” said Staff Sgt. Ronnie Perez, a 927th ASTS aeromedical technician. “Providing care is a skill that is highly perishable and needs to be practiced so Airmen are prepared to implement those skills in high stress environments.”

Thibodeaux explained that the FTX was intended to put the Airmen through difficult scenarios in an austere environment, where they could proactively practice skills that cannot be replicated at the home station.

“The guys were physically and mentally exhausted, however certain Airmen stepped up to lead the team, and together they effectively overcame the challenges placed in front of them,” Thibodeaux said.