Exercises prepare people for real-world emergencies

Master Sgt. Rory Smith
435th Air Base Wing Inspector General Readiness Office

Why exercise? No, not to get in shape for the new Air Force Fitness Test. It’s to better prepare for real-world situations and emergencies, both peacetime and wartime.
Gen. George Washington said, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”
The 435th Air Base Wing Inspector General Readiness Office runs the exercise programs for the 435 ABW and 86th Airlift Wing. This includes Ramstein, Vogelweh, Sembach, Rhein- Main and any other unit belonging to either wing.
An exercise measures reaction during a variety of scenarios: anti-terrorism and force protection, bomb threat and suspicious package, major accident response, natural disasters, anti-hijacking, and the list goes on. Exercise scenarios also include wartime deployment taskings, weapons of mass destruction and the ability to survive and operate in a chemical environment. These ensure people and units are prepared for any real-world mission or situation that may arise. Lives depend on us being able to do our mission efficiently and effectively.
Three areas of focus for the exercise program are: process, training, awareness and attitude. Process:
Whether it is processing people through the deployment line, generating aircraft to launch, or responding to a car bomb, every step taken during an exercise scenario can be linked to some process, and every “write-up” can be linked to an official reference. The more effective the process, the better the installation. One goal of exercise programs is to constantly improve processes.
Another reason for exercises is to train, practicing for real-life situations. The simulation should be as real as possible, a little stressful, but not fatal if a mistake is made. Training includes a variety of developed scenarios, so if a given event happens, it’s not the first time it’s been seen or dealt with.
A difficult part of exercising is trying to train in the middle of real-world events. At these times, flexibility is the key. Even after months of planning, scripting injects and expected responses, scenarios may change at the last minute … much like real life. Col. Michael Aeillo, 435 ABW vice commander said, “We must constantly train to prepare for real-world events. U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s no-notice inspections evaluate our ability to respond to the unexpected and reinforce the idea that we must always be ready.”
Awareness and attitude:
Which brings the final point … awareness/attitude. Exercises must be treated like they are “real.” Responses must be urgent. When people participate in an exercise, they program themselves to react to certain situations. For example, if you see a backpack lying next to a building with no one around, what should be done? Walk by and do nothing? The proper thing to do is to immediately call Security Forces and let them assess the situation. No one knows what might be in that backpack. Even if that call is prefaced with “exercise … exercise … exercise,” the security forces will respond like its real. Brig. Gen. Rosanne Bailey, 435 ABW commander, said, “We must constantly be aware of our surroundings and respond to every situation with urgency as if our lives depend on it — every time.”
No one knows a base, or a neighborhood, better than the people who live and work there. Locals are the ones who will notice anything or anyone strange or out of place.
The goal is to improve processes, provide an avenue for training and increase awareness and attitude. Training is crucial in today’s military.
People may not think anything could happen, but remember the USAFE Headquarters bombing, the Rhein-Main Base Exchange bombing, the Heidelberg attack, the Oklahoma City bombing and the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This is a world where terrorists are waiting to attack. Everyone must always be prepared to react with urgency. Exercises help everyone do just that.