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Citizen Airmen rehearse desert combat ops

Staff Sgt. Haley Bia, security forces, aims her M-4 rifle durng a rescue exercise August 10 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

Staff Sgt. Haley Bia, security forces, aims her M-4 rifle durng a rescue exercise August 10 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Dave Neve)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Paint-ball bullets zipped around the eight-person security team as they peered into the mixture of gnarled mesquites, tall-desert grass, and thick sagebrush that shielded the attacking force from sight.

Out in the open, the security team was unable to effectively engage the attacking forces. The team leader signaled his element to move forward - into the underbrush. After moving less than a yard they too were concealed from sight.

"Every year we are required to do annual training as part of security force's core taskings," said Master Sgt. James Mulcahey, 162nd Security Forces Squadron training coordinator. "The tasking requirements range from [responding to] ambushes to land navigation, evacuating casualties and numerous scenarios we could encounter out in the field."

But this year's field exercise, held Aug. 10-11 at the firing range here, broadened the perspective of the 19 participating squadron members. The Arizona Guardsmen based at Tucson International Airport teamed up with fellow Citizen Airmen, rescue specialists from the 943rd Rescue Group, an Air Force Reserve unit at D-M, for a dynamic force-on-force experience.

"We decided to do something different with pararescue personnel because we wanted to get a feel for doing things in a multi-disciplinary, inter-agency training exercise," said Sergeant Mulcahey.

Normally, security forces work in 13-member flights, or in 44-member squadrons. Working with pararescue and survival, evasion, resistance, and escape personnel meant smaller teams.

"They [the pararescue personnel] have been teaching us some small group tactics; so instead of having to control 44 people we can break it down into fire teams of five or six," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Long, a team leader during the exercise.

But the training wasn't only for security force's benefit. For Staff Sgt. David Adams, a pararescue specialist with eight months under his belt, the training provided a way to do the same things in a different way.

"Normally we might be on boat or an aircraft, so to do an overland movement with ground forces is different but not out of the ordinary," he said. "Now if I ride up with a Ranger or security forces team, I'll know how to function and maneuver with them instead of just my own team."

The need to work with special operations forces comes from fundamental changes within security forces; no longer are they confined to guarding a base and the planes on the flightline.

"The career field is becoming more combat oriented," said Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Wallace, security forces. "We are doing more missions outside the wire, more search and destroy, internal and external perimeter control, and working with host-nation forces."

For Senior Airman William Wade the training was similar to what he had done in the Army. A Tucson born-and-raised Guardsmen, Wade served in the Army as a military policeman before joining the Guard a year ago.

"I'd like to see the same missions next year, but actually bring helicopters in for added realism - that would be pretty cool," said Airman Wade. "It was fun to get out in the field and get a little dirty."

And got dirty they did. From the underbrush the security team maneuvered to flush out the attacking force. Paintballs whizzed in return repelling the attack. Survivors surrendered and the wounded were treated for their simulated injuries.