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Civil Engineer Copperheads increase readiness with training

Arizona Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Shane Sanders, 161st Civil Engineer Squadron, structures apprentice, uses a metal inert gas welder during training in New London, N.C., Aug. 3, 2021. The training provides 161 ARW CES Airmen hands-on experience to ensure mission readiness.

Arizona Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Shane Sanders, 161st Civil Engineer Squadron, structures apprentice, uses a metal inert gas welder during training in New London, N.C., Aug. 3, 2021. The training provides 161 ARW CES Airmen hands-on experience to ensure mission readiness.

NEW LONDON, N.C. –  Arizona Air National Guard Airmen from the 161st Civil Engineer Squadron received hands-on readiness training at the 145th Civil Engineer Squadron Regional Training Site in North Carolina Aug. 2-6.

The Copperheads traveled to North Carolina to focus on training and build morale.

"The equipment at home station is limited - limited to what the Airmen see and what they can put their hands on," said 2nd Lt. Raymond Potts, officer in charge of the engineering flight. "The [161 CES] travels to training sites such as the [145 CES RTS] to broaden the Copperhead Airmen's horizons, gaining the ability to train, work on and troubleshoot more diverse equipment."

Tech. Sgt. Fritz Mendiola, heavy equipment operator with the 161st CES, said the training was a positive experience for the squadron.

"Having the ability to utilize various equipment helps prepare [161 CES] Airmen for deployments, making sure every operator is certified and licensed, mission-ready and mission-capable," said Mendiola.

Many Citizen-Airmen have unrelated civilian occupations, which makes them capable of doing a range of tasks – a huge advantage for members of the National Guard.

"It helps us be a little bit more rounded," said Potts. "It helps us come at challenges and issues a different way - to be on top and meet the mission."

Being mission-ready also means being up to date on annual training requirements, such as combat skills training and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive materials (CBRNE) training.

Tech. Sgt. Rikki Sechrist, emergency management specialist with the 161st CES, said her team doesn't always have a lot of time at home station to provide training. She said traveling to the regional training site allowed the emergency management team and the squadron to focus on receiving and providing essential instruction.

"Everyone is here in one location; we can knock out CBRNE training in one shot for the whole section," Sechrist said. "Coming out here has benefited the overall readiness of the unit by allowing everyone to practice skills. It sets aside the allotted week for everyone to hash out what they need to. It is also a chance for us to bond and work together."

That's important for National Guard Airmen who typically only work together one weekend a month.

"It has helped me become a better member of the squadron, and a better leader, by seeing what everyone is required to do, as well as what everyone is capable of doing," Potts said.

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