CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — The two security forces teams entered the village carefully and systematically, not sure what to expect. They received intelligence regarding hostile forces in the area, and they stuck together as they entered buildings.
A smoke grenade masked their entry into the village when mayhem commenced as explosions and small arms fire began what would turn into a lengthy firefight. The 27th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron would emerge victorious, although they took one “casualty” in the process.
They had to evacuate Tech. Sgt. Michael Cline, 27 SOSFS, to the aircraft, which was compromised by enemy forces.
Thankfully, this was just the culmination of one week of long days and battered bodies as 13 Airmen with the 27 SOSFS trained at a discreet facility recently in Roswell, N.M., with instructors from Controlled F.O.R.C.E. Inc., who are based out of Illinois.
The village was “as close as possible to a deployed environment,” said Airman 1st Class Anthony Arenas, 27 SOSFS.
The five days of training included hand-to-hand combat, weapons training and night-vision driving. Each day incorporated more and more of what the Airmen learned, culminating in Friday’s event.
“The level of training they gave us was unparalleled,” said Staff Sgt. John Zelonis, 27 SOSFS. “Being here brought us [the teams] all together and we now know that we’re that much faster as a unit, that much more cohesive.”
Sergeant Zelonis was one of two team leaders during the week-long training, but each Airmen switched roles to understand the bigger picture.
Though each day was different, the Airmen weren’t given much time for anything other than meals and sleep. The teams trained for up to 18 hours each day.
“There was no downtime, no powerpoint presentations,” said Don Roberts, executive director of Controlled F.O.R.C.E.
“They were doing live training every day taking villages, hands-on combat, etc., as one big team,” said Mr. Roberts. “The teams had heart and were squared away from the get-go,” he added.
On the final day of training, the Airmen “flew” on an aircraft to the deployed location, after which they had to secure the perimeter of the aircraft before forming into their teams to gain control of the “village.”
The village consisted of two rows of buildings with a central corridor leading up to a final two-story building with compact rooms.
After the village was secure, the Airmen made their way back to the aircraft to return “home,” though it had since been compromised by the enemy, adding in another level of realism. This required the teams to apply yet again what they had learned.
Upon completion of the course, the Airmen had a tired look on their faces, but not one of complacency.
More than one had burns from ammunition shells ejected from rifles and bruises from the physically-demanding training over the course of the week.
When the week was over, there was one thing that caught the instructors’ eyes. “Confidence,” said Tony Grano, executive director for Controlled F.O.R.C.E. “These kids are armed with confidence – in themselves and in their teams.”
During the debrief at the end of the week Mr. Grano addressed the security forces Airmen, saying, “there is no doubt if I ever had to go downrange that I would love to go with every one of you side by side. I know you’d cover my back and that’s the bottom line.”
“I’m proud of what my Airmen accomplished here this week,” said Maj. Damian Schlussel, 27 SOSFS commander. “Their dedication and motivation throughout the training here shows why the 27 SOSFS has some of the best Airmen in today’s U.S. Air Force.”