By Senior Airman Jana Somero,
158th Fighter Wing
Tyndall Air Force Base welcomed 14 Green Mountain Boys from the Vermont Air National Guard’s 158th Civil Engineer Squadron to Florida for the annual Silver Flag exercise March 21 to April 1.
Hosted by Detachment 1 of the 823rd RED HORSE Squadron, Silver Flag is a 10-day exercise to train and prepare Airmen across multiple career fields for real-world scenarios they may encounter on deployment. The training focuses on hands-on experience with contingency tools and equipment not usually used or obtainable at their home station.
“Here at Silver Flag, they take Airmen from different specialties and they give them tasks outside of their current Air Force Specialty Code,” said Maj. Mathew Lehman, the base civil engineer assigned to the 158th Civil Engineer Squadron at the Vermont Air National Guard. “You’ll have electricians doing small repairs, you’ll have water and fuels systems maintenance cutting concrete. They call it multi-capable Airmen.”
Instructors lead the first eight days of the exercise, and the last two days are student-led under instructor observation.
“They will train the first eight days for what they’ll do in the last two days,” said Lehman. “It will give them the confidence and the competence to do their job in a wartime environment.”
“I’ve been able to touch equipment that I haven’t been able to since tech school,” said Airman 1st Class Vanessa Tinoco, an HVAC technician assigned to the 158th Civil Engineer Squadron at the Vermont Air National Guard. “I am definitely grateful for this experience here. I’ve been able to work on a lot of equipment that I will see on deployment, but I wasn’t familiar with.”
Silver Flag also offers opportunities for joint readiness training. Throughout the exercise, 191 active-duty, Guard, and Reserve Airmen trained together in a realistic, simulated deployment from Kuwait to Iraq.
“Coming here to Silver Flag, we have units from all across the Air Force and as engineers,” said Master Sgt. Patrick Clohessy, the structures shop supervisor in the 158th Civil Engineer Squadron at the Vermont Air National Guard. “It’s nice because we all speak the same language. We all blend in without a hiccup. It’s been a real positive experience.”
The training format ensured that all Airmen could work together efficiently and easily in a future deployed environment.
“One of the beautiful things about working with so many different Airmen within the same AFSCs is that you get to build on some of that relationship and camaraderie that happens between active, Guard, and Reserve,” said Lehman. “Everybody is here doing the same job and producing at the same level.”
By the end of Day 10, all 14 Green Mountain Boys completed all tasks and training.
“They had a great attitude throughout the whole training,” said Lehman. “They knocked the whole thing out of the park and really made the Green Mountain Boys proud.”