Basic combat skills -- leaders say Air Force needs more training Published April 26, 2007 By Staff Sgt. Vann Miller 35th Fighter Wing public affairs MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- In preparation for the Air and Space Expeditionary Force rotation, 94 people attended the Pacific Air Forces-sponsored combat skills course here Wednesday. Several combat skills training course instructors came to Misawa to provide information that is not only designed to keep our Airmen protected, but could make the difference in the combat environment where our service members are asked to deploy. As the students gathered around the field at Camp Defender in the early morning hours, one instructor addressed the Airmen. "This can either be an easy day or a hard day -- that all depends on you," said Mr. Adam Smith, prior Navy SEAL and team leader for Analytic Services, Inc., the PACAF Mobile Training Team. After two days of classroom instruction and one day of field practical training, the Airmen here received a lesson in combat skills that many admit was a first for them. "We're here to teach you how to stay safe," said Mr. Smith. "I will not go back and report to PACAF that I failed a class because they can't stay safe down range. I will get your 100 percent (effort) today." And with those words, class began with a resounding Hoo-ah! "Basically this training addresses that crowd whose job is not on the front line or those who go out and engage the enemy in combat," Mr. Smith said. The instructors motivated each Airman as they taught basic combat maneuvers, from the proper use and carrying of firearms to procedures for detecting an unexploded ordnance -- and everything in between. The Airmen low-crawled and carried each other on their way to a better understanding of how to survive and operate in the urban battlefields the military faces today. The instructors admit that a challenging part of the course for some students is to make the mental transition to the "warrior" mindset. The difference the Air Force has in the way of its sister services is that in the Army, Soldiers are taught they are infantry man first and in the Marines, they are taught that they are rifleman first. "Their boot camp is constructed around the idea that they're a rifleman first and so they get a lot of those basic skill sets very early on and throughout their career," Mr. Smith said. The basic combat skills course is designed to help build a culture, the instructor said. "Our job might be to keep planes in the air, but we now realize we are in an environment where we are now exposed to this threat," he added. "And so, we have to build the awareness and the ability to address engaging the enemy - not going out and attacking the enemy, but (thinking) what happens when the fight gets to me. What we are going for is a mental shift, a shift in that culture that says, 'I'm now a little more mentally prepared to go face a war zone.'" The training offered here not only gives valuable information to Airmen who are about to deploy, it also saves on resources and fosters a quality of life by bringing the team of instructors to the various bases throughout PACAF. Instead of sending more than 100 members from Misawa back and forth to the states, which in itself is an expense, and then down range for the AEF rotation, Airmen get to remain at Misawa with their work centers and their families longer. Another bonus of bringing the team here was that it allowed Airmen an opportunity to train alongside the Japan Air Self-Defense Force servicemembers. Surprisingly, after all the running and the numerous drills that forced members face down in the dirt, many of the students expressed an eagerness for more of this type of training despite the challenging conditions. Senior Airman Junior Neal, 35th Communication Squadron maintenance operations controller, said this particular training is unlike anything he has ever seen. "I thought it would be mostly like identifying UXOs and stuff like that. Not actually engaging and practicing firefights," Airman Neal said. Seeing how demanding the physical challenges were, we definitely need more of it -- that is one thing for sure," he said. This is a basic skill set that gives Airmen the capability to be safe in that combat environment. As one instructor put it, being strong of body and mind and the proper execution of what is taught can make the difference between sucking down a round and having a war story to tell.