An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Evolving Our Ability To Survive and Operate

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Bryan Hoover
  • 171 Air Refueling Wing

Training in the Air Force is robust and encompasses a wide range of inherent capabilities and mission sets. Over the past 20 years, the Air Force has focused on sustained training and has set its sights on implementing new training to continue the legacy of being the strongest, fastest and most superior air power in the world.


One training the Air Force is reviewing is the ability to survive and operate (ATSO). In the past, Air Force installations completed training requirements for the ability to survive and operate in chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear-contaminated environments.  During these exercises, installations simulated mobilizing some of their airmen. Airmen simulated out-processing for deployment and carried out missions as if they were in a hostile region somewhere else in the world responding to a variety of situations.


“We want people to have muscle memory (with training),” said Staff Sgt. Phillip Kapelewski, the 171st Air Refueling Wing installation emergency manager.


To prepare for this exercise, emergency managers from the Civil Engineer Squadron trained airmen from all work centers on proper donning and doffing of protective gear, map reading, post-attack reconnaissance search teams and much more. Now, some of these requirements are shifting to individual sections to ensure service members are even more prepared to do their unique jobs in chemical protective suits and gear.


“Supervisors are going to have to spend time during drill having airmen put on MOPP (mission-oriented protective posture) gear and show that they can perform their duties,” said Kapelewski.


Although many of these work-center-training changes are referencing an Air Force Instruction that is under re-write and does not yet exist, Kapelewski thinks we need to keep an open mind to the idea of updating our training strategies.


“We need to change our mindset. All of our adversaries require a different response. It’s never been a one-size-fits-all way of dealing with our enemies. We need to change our attitude and perspective,” said Kapelewski.


Although part of the training responsibility will move to individual career fields, emergency management will continue to provide training to airmen.  By moving part of the training to individual career fields and work centers, CES will have even more time to spend providing detailed training to airmen.


“As things change (in the world), readiness is becoming more of a widespread thought process,” said Kapelewski.


As Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown described the current landscape of the Air Force and why change is necessary, he stated in his 2020 strategic approach that the Air Force needs to “accelerate change or lose”. The Air Force is demonstrating this commitment to change by updating training requirements and its approach to training.


As the 171st continues to change how service members are trained, they remain ready, no matter what lies ahead.