Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Megan Beatty
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs December 3, 2021
The 435th Construction and Training Squadron hosted a total force Silver Flag training course for U.S. Air Force Airmen and members of NATO, the Dutch army, German and Israeli air forces, Nov. 9-19.
The training allowed more than 150 members from civil engineer, force support and vehicle maintenance career fields to come together and learn skills necessary to complete large-scale base recovery and rapid air field damage recovery (RADR) operations.
The training is required for U.S. Airmen every three years. The Airmen learn skills such as building a bare base, responding to base attacks and operating a mortuary. The course ends with a two-day field training exercise; culminating with RADR training to repair a runway.
“This is the first time a lot of these Airmen are seeing this equipment and getting hands-on training with it,” U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Nicholas Mosier, 435 CTS cadre, said. “Training like Silver Flag makes us multi-capable Airmen across the board so we are ready for any type of attack that might occur.”
The students perform tasks outside their regular duties while at Silver Flag. This is because they may be called upon to aid other areas of their career field in real-world scenarios.
“If we are attacked and there are craters on the runway, RADR allows us to get back to being a fully operational air field as soon as possible,” U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Soren Hoffman, Royal Air Force Lakenheath 48th Civil Engineer Squadron Engineering Flight deputy and Silver Flag RADR officer in charge, said. “We are learning things along the way, like limitations and what needs to be prioritized first so we can stick to the timeline to finish quickly.”
Previous iterations of Silver Flag were only able to support smaller classes consisting of just U.S. Airmen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the courses are now available to more than just U.S. members.
“We recently opened classes to NATO allies and other partner countries,” Mosier said. “It is important for our allies and partners to understand how we operate, and vice-versa, when we need to recover a base after an attack.”
Including allies and partners in Silver Flag allows them to support these critical war fighting requirements at their main operating and forward deployed bases, and enable agile combat employment. Synchronizing engineer forces between U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa, NATO and other partners allows them to streamline future bilateral operations.
“I think this exercise is really good for us to compare how we work and how Americans work differently than us,” Dutch Solider 1st Class Jeffrey van Meerwijk, 435 CTS student, said. “It is important for us to know in case it is necessary for us to help after an attack.”
Although some of the training was foreign to the students, they were still able to work together and learn how to accomplish base recovery operations in a simulated forward deployed environment.
“This is my first time being here and it is really great,” Hoffman said. “It is cool to see all the pieces moving together and be able to interact with our NATO allies and partners. This is great training and it is always awesome to work with our allied countries.”