Refuelers Refresh Military Skills

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Public Affairs
No matter the challenge, no matter the environment, the aircraft must be ready when the commander calls for it. It is what the "O" is all about in "ORI" - the acronym for Operational Readiness Inspection.

With major inspections and a possible Air Expeditionary Force tasking on the horizon, the 127th Air Refueling Group put the focus on military basics during their February Unit Training Assembly at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, sending a couple hundred Airmen through refresher training on everything from small arms familiarization, chemical warfare protection and providing emergency care to an injured Wingman.

"Grab the tab and pull the head harness back over your head," Senior Airman Brad Moehlig called out, as a class of about 20 chemical warfare suit-clad KC-135 maintenance personnel donned chemical-biological protective masks. As the Airmen checked the seals on their masks, Moehlig and other instructors from the 127th circulated among the group, offering guidance on correct wear of the mask.

His voice muffled as he talked through his gas mask, Chief Master Sgt. Keith Pionk, superintendent of the 191st Maintenance Squadron, said it is critical that all Airmen, regardless of rank or duty title, get the training needed to operate in a possible combat environment.

"Do we need to do this? We're at war right now," Pionk said, removing his mask at the command of the instructor. "There is not a person here who doesn't need it. We are flying missions every day."

The goal is to be ready to stay operational, come what may.

Trainers from the weapons, emergency management and medical specialties arranged group training for the Air Refuelers providing everyone with the basics. Additional training will be provided, as needed, to those preparing to deploy, said Master Sgt. Stephen Jakle, of the 127th Emergency Management Flight, who helped coordinate the day's training and served as an instructor for part of the chemical suit instruction.

"This mass instruction is one part of three-legged stool of training," Jakle said. "There's also the computer-based training and then hands-on training - the doing and learning - to help this sink in for everyone."

In the week prior to the February UTA, the full-time military staff of the Air Refueling Group took the mass trainer. During the weekend, about 100 military members went through the weapons, chemical-biological-nuclear, and medical training.

"Our traditional Guardsmen are and always have been the backbone of the unit," Pionk said. "They have to have this training."

On the opposite side of Hangar 36 from where the chief was practicing putting his mask on, Senior Airman Jason Bird was learning about the symptoms of various types of chemical agents that could be used. The Aircrew Flight Equipment specialist listened as blister agents, blood agents and the like were reviewed.

It's been about five years since Bird joined the Michigan Air National Guard and first learned about chemical warfare protection in Basic Military Training.

"It's a good refresher," he said afterwards, standing in the shadow of a KC-135 Stratotanker inside the hangar. "If anything happens, we need to know what we're doing. We need to be ready to be able to keep working and do the job."