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177th Fighter Wing Leads During Scruffy Devil Exercise in Alaska

  • Published
  • By SrA Darion Boyd
  • 177th Fighter Wing

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, AK -- In May, the 177th Civil Engineer Squadron led a Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force (BEEF) training week at Camp Mad Bull on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER), including civil engineers from the 108th Wing, 111th Attack Wing, and 176th Wing from the New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Alaska Air National Guard, respectively.

The exercise began with engineers of numerous career specialties constructing a bare base from a Disaster Relief Bed-down System (DRBS), followed by multiple contingency combat skill courses across two days, and finally, a three-mile-long obstacle course.

“Engineers are born as multi-capable Airmen,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Garcia, 177th Civil Engineer Squadron Prime BEEF manager. “We are carpenters, plumbers, heavy equipment operators, electricians, and so much more. Air Force Instruction 10-210, which outlines contingency training outside an Airman’s specialty, sets us apart from the active duty Air Force.”

Part of a civil engineer's duty is to provide shelter for all service members in deployed environments. This ensures that other Airmen from any career field can complete their missions.

“Our job is to make sure we can bed down people and make sure the mission happens in any austere location to get the aircraft off the ground,” said Garcia.

Relocating the 177th, 108th, and 111th civil engineers offers them hands-on experience.

“We can even build tents at home, but that wouldn’t be training in an unfamiliar environment," said Garcia. "When you deploy, you’re not familiar with the area. It wouldn’t have been beneficial to stay in New Jersey. Alaska sets us up to be prepared for the unknown.”

Camp Mad Bull at JBER provided previously unfamiliar equipment to some engineers.

“We were unsure of the specific equipment we would be working with,” said Senior Master Sgt. William Ericksen, Heavy Repair Superintendent of 177th Civil Engineer Operations Flight. “Having us away from the equipment and environment that we know is much more realistic to a deployed environment.”

Shorter Deployments for Training (DFTs) like Prime BEEF are also crucial for junior enlisted Airmen, exposing them to the Air Force Force Generation model.

“It's good for first-term Airmen to get a sense of what we do when we deploy,” said Ericksen. “Being in Alaska for only a week gives them a taste of what they can expect to experience on a 6-month deployment.”

“Scruffy Devil” was explicitly modeled after that aspect of a deployment-like experience. The lack of certainty and surprise of operability was by design.

“We want to put people into new, uncomfortable environments,” said Lt. Col. Lucas Smith, 177th Civil Engineer Squadron commander. “We want to test you in a situation as close to a real-world deployment as possible, as safely as possible. The trainings that really stick are the ones that stand out.”

This particular Prime BEEF training stood out for multiple reasons, most notably due to a visit from several leaders from the New Jersey Air National Guard. The leaders were able to better understand what civil engineers do in a deployed environment.

“Having our wing leadership here was a stand-out moment,” said Garcia. “I've spoken to countless leaders during my time at JBER, from colonels of the National Guard Bureau to commanders and senior enlisted leaders from the 177th Fighter Wing. Never have they been on a Deployment for Training and had state representatives attend.”

A distinguished visitor’s role during a DFT is to observe the training to better understand the mission and how Air Force career fields promote mission readiness.

“At the end of the day, our responsibility is to be ready,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Kennedy, Assistant Adjutant General for the New Jersey Air National Guard. “So you have the teamwork, the planning, the execution, and the training. All of that translates to mission execution and mission success.”

Junior enlisted Airmen and wing leadership took value from Prime BEEF week in myriad ways.

“Very often, we just see the pilot, the airplane, the crew chief out on the line, and that's it – and often that’s what we think the mission is,” said Col. Derek B. Routt, commander of the 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard. “I now have an even deeper appreciation for the civil engineers during deployment. It’s now my responsibility to pass that on to our more than 1,200 Airmen at home to get more perspective.”

With the completion of the Prime BEEF week training, 177th FW civil engineers are already looking forward to their next deployment.

“This year’s Prime BEEF could not have been more successful,” said Garcia. “The training is done, but tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow is when we take what we’ve learned in the training and put it to the test in the field.”