Exercises save lives, improve efficiency

  • Published
  • By Col. Philip Sheridan
  • 127th Wing vice commander
The 127th Wing will hold an operational readiness exercise Oct. 10-17 - the first of four OREs before the wing's operational readiness inspection in October 2013. The first ORE is only 19 weeks away, and it will be here before we know it. I have heard many times in my career from my fellow Guardsmen that an "inspection ready organization is not combat ready, and a combat ready organization is not inspection ready." I disagree completely!

I can tell you from personal experience that people can get hurt when procedures are not followed. That is why the inspector general comes to inspect the 127th Wing - to see if we are following regulatory guidance, Air Force instructions, technical orders, policies and procedures that are instituted by the Air Force and the 127th Wing.

Here are a couple of examples of times when procedures were not followed and the outcome was not as it should have been.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, an American Special Forces team was pinned down by insurgents. An immediate close air support request was issued, and a single F-16 responded. The F-16 made multiple strafing runs with his 20 mm Gatling gun. The problem was, each time the pilot made a pass, he came in lower and lower, ignoring prescribed parameters. Eventually, he came in too low and crashed. This pilot gave his life for his country, but if he would have followed established procedures, he more than likely would have lived.

In another less-tragic instance, I came across a jack stand that had been misplaced on the nose gear of an F-16, causing damage to the intake of the aircraft. Fortunately it was not a 127th Wing aircraft, but it still decreased our combat capability in Iraq. Had the TO been followed and no corners cut, this would not have happened.

Support areas are also crucial in creating a smooth-running combat organization. Security posturing errors and communication breakdowns, among other support failures, can have disastrous results during an attack.

Every single one of us has witnessed things like this, and if you haven't yet, you will during your time in the military. Sometimes, corners are cut and processes are not followed. People sometimes choose to do things quickly, instead of properly, to save time. This will catch up with the organization, and it will have an unpredictable impact.

I understand why the Air Force conducts ORIs. These inspections emphasize the importance of following the rules, many of which are written in someone else's blood. It is our responsibility to follow regulatory guidance as best we can to minimize any inefficiency in our combat capabilities.

You can start preparing for the OREs and the ORI now by reviewing your AFIs and your TOs. When the exercises are complete, take the constructive criticism offered by the exercise evaluation team and the inspector general, use it and keep a positive attitude. Take these training opportunities seriously, because someday when you deploy to combat, you are going to have to apply these skills in a combat environment.

I look forward to welcoming the Air Force inspector general to the 127th Wing. We have tremendous experience in defending our country, and our history is rich with success. Let's get this training started right, and let's finish it off with a successful ORI.