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Security forces Airmen train with British counterparts

by Karen Abeyasekere
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

9/11/2012 - RAF MILDENHALL, U.K. (AFNS) -- Airmen from the 100th Security Forces Squadron joined ranks with British counterparts from 15 Squadron, RAF Honington; No. 2 Tactical Police Squadron, RAF Henlow; and No. 7 Force Protection Wing Headquarters, RAF Coningsby Aug. 28 to Sept. 6 at Stanford Training Area, more commonly known as STANTA, near Thetford.

The 40 RAF Mildenhall defenders' role was to play as U.S. Marine Corps members. Royal Air Force regiments involved in the joint mission rehearsal exercise, also known as MRX, will soon be deploying to Afghanistan. There they will be working alongside different military forces, and joint exercises such as this provide realistic training.

"If we weren't doing this together, from the Royal Air Force viewpoint, we'd not be as well prepared as we are to go theatre," said Air Marshal Andrew Pulford, Deputy Commander Capability/Air Member for Personnel and Capability, Headquarters Air Command, High Wycombe, Sept. 4.

He added that the exercise is hugely beneficial, both for the 100th SFS and RAF regiments; the RAF troops have been preparing to deploy to Afghanistan over the past year.

"We're constantly integrated with our key ally, the United States, and we have exchange posts which allow us to orientate our programs to optimize our training," said Gp. Capt. Andy Hall, RAF Honington Station Commander, who was out at STANTA in his role as commander of the RAF regiment and deputy commander of the Royal Air Force Protection Force. "Through our exchange posts, we currently have a visit from the 820th (Security Forces Group, Moody Air Force Base, Ga.) and their new commander."

The squadron's goal is to train on a regular basis in a joint environment. The joint US-UK MRX is the concluding test phase of mission-specific training for them before they deploy to Afghanistan.

"Within this test phase we integrate all of the agencies and organizations that we'd expect to be operating with, which includes the U.S. Air Force," the RAF Honington station commander said. "You can see on the training area today an example of how much we integrate in Afghanistan. At one of our locations, we are fully integrated with (the United States). To exercise that integration on our training areas before we go is really important - both now and into the future. We're sharing knowledge and expertise."

He added that the joint exercise at STANTA is an example of a program of operational force generation which is constant. It also gives an insight into the extent of which the RAF rehearses its skills, so their troops are familiar with other coalition forces' protocol.

Both 100th SFS and the RAF members slept in rough conditions, mimicking those deployed military personnel may encounter downrange. Their "forward operating bases" at STANTA, had only concrete, brick or wooden floors to bed down on, with only glow sticks and the moon for light, Meals, ready to eat, a sleeping bag and their weapons by their side. Military Working Dogs also "deployed" with their handlers for the duration of the exercise.

"Once the shift was over, we rotated with the other 13-man team that was out on patrols. These guys gave it all," said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Williams, 100th SFS, from Visalia, Calif. "We had minimal sleep and minimal down time - it was intense, even for us cadre, but it was some of the greatest training we can provide home station."

Due to concentrated needs which are indicative of a deployed environment, Airmen need to prepare for any eventuality, such as ensuring base security.

"While inside the patrol base, our Defenders were on 24-hour operations, with a six-hours on, six-hours off schedule," he said. "While on their down time, if a simulated attack was to happen, they had to wake up, grab their gear and provide support to ensure the safety and security of the patrol base," Williams said.

Working alongside RAF regiments allows the 100th SFS Airmen an opportunity to gain hands-on knowledge of how crucial it is to work cohesively in joint and coalition environments.

While at STANTA, the air marshal visited the four training areas, including patrolling, RAF Police and the simulated Afghan village. He also stressed how important it is to prepare the RAF troops before they go to Afghanistan.

"If you look at the operation in Afghanistan, it's an operation with many different nations but importantly, down in Helmand Province we've got U.S. Marine Corps and Royal Air Force, British Army all working together very closely," Pulford said.

He added the RAF is grateful for the support from the U.S. Air Force and the teamwork that had been shown.

"(The MRX) brings together two great nations separated by a similar language and shows how different nations do things and use different (terms), so that our people are ready to go in to Afghanistan and work alongside the Americans," Pulford said.

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