97th, 82nd CONS Airmen partner to test contingency skills

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Robert Sizelove
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 97th Contracting Squadron at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma and the 82nd CONS from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas teamed up to conduct a training exercise dubbed “Operation Sagebrush” at Altus AFB on Oct. 28-29, 2021.

Operation Sagebrush was a mock deployment that took place at Camp Little Bull, a training area constructed on the east side of Altus AFB. The two-day event tested the two units' cohesion and their ability to stand up a simulated bare base.

“Everything from food, water, shelter, electricity and internet service all had to be negotiated for and contracted with local vendors,” said Staff Sgt. Ross Couture, 97 CONS contracting specialist. “Exercises like this help prepare our team by taking away the initial shock of being somewhere unfamiliar, so when they reach their deployed location they know where to start their mission.”

After standing up the simulated bare base, the Airmen received training on how to defend it and themselves. They practiced “shoot or don't shoot” scenarios with the help of the 97th Security Forces Squadron’s Expeditionary Skills Trainer. The EST is a video based simulator that uses real weapons actuated by compressed air. The compressed air provides realistic recoil and the video system tracks the trainee’s accuracy and reaction time.

“It opened our eyes to a lot of ‘real life’ things you don’t think of when getting deployed,” said Airman 1st Class Frank Gillen, 82nd CONS contracting specialist. “From having a bag ready to go at a moment's notice to the importance of staying brushed up on Self Aid Buddy Care.”
Other exercise scenarios were designed to task saturate and overwhelm the Airmen, while also allowing Airmen to ask questions that may not come up in an office environment, giving them an overall better understanding of the day-to-day operations they can expect downrange.

“We stress our members here so that they can perform under pressure when it counts,” said Master Sgt. Jordan Bonds, 97 CONS contracting officer. “We do this to prepare our Airmen with the skills they need to execute an evolutionary mission set and the confidence to do so effectively.”
The immersive experience also gave Airmen the opportunity to interact with each other, build camaraderie and share their best practices.

“The whole crew at Altus made it a one of a kind learning experience,” Gillen said. “It’s always good to meet other Airmen in contracting.”