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171st Security Forces Takes Aim at Army Site for Training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Allyson L. Manners
  • 171st Air Refueling Wing
Guardsmen from the 171st Security Forces Squadron, located at the 171st Air Refueling Wing near Pittsburgh, traveled to Camp Dawson, W. Va., August 5-8, 2018, to qualify on heavy weapons and test out the site as the location for future training of 171 SFS Airmen.

19 members spent the four-day trip familiarizing and qualifying on heavy weapons, including the 240B and 249 machine guns and the M203 grenade launcher. They also toured the weapon ranges and facilities that may be used for their training for years to come. Two members of the 171st Medical Group also joined them, as having medical staff on the weapons range is a requirement.

Camp Dawson, ran by the West Virginia Army National Guard, offers over 4,000 acres of various types of terrain and multiple training facilities, and has been used for military training since before WWI. Its location, just two hours south of the 171st, as well as its weapons range capabilities and training facilities, make it ideal for Security Forces training missions.

“Our ranges at the 171st and in the area surrounding Pittsburgh simply don’t have the capacity or capability to handle these types of weapons,” said Chief Master Sgt. Edward Altmeyer, Jr., SFS Manager. Even on this short trip, we qualified 14 people on heavies, which increases our capabilities. It increases our lethality as a Security Forces Squadron.”

Although traveling to a site like Camp Dawson takes more coordination and logistics, the organizers of the training believe it offers a better experience to everyone involved. “There is something unique about doing a training at a location that is separate to the base. People are more focused on the training, and not distracted by the fact that they have to get home at the end of the day and make dinner, things like that,” said Master Sgt. Bryan Albright, Combat Arms Administrator for the 171st. “We were able to get people to commit to this and make it a more prosperous training where they learn the job and get their weapons qualifications done.”

With a notable amount of members of the squadron deployed or returning from deployments, the team that attended this training was comprised of many new airmen with less than 18 months in service. Their time spent on site was their first in-depth field training since attending their technical school. Having new team members visit Camp Dawson with the leaders of their squadron was a crucial aspect of the trip, almost as important as the training itself.

“The best part of this trip is really just getting to know all these Airmen, said Master Sgt. Daniel Novak, Combat Arms Training and Maintenance Noncommissioned Officer In Charge, 171 SFS. “During drill we have requirements we have to meet, we have things that need done. But when we’re all here together, that’s when we really get to take the time and know them as not just Airmen, but as people. That’s just as important as the training. They’re the future of our squadron, of the Guard.”

“Most of the people that we’re here with, we don’t get to work with them every day, and even with our leadership, you get to see a different side of them here,” said Airman 1st Class Josh Snyder, a new member of the squadron. “It’s been super professional but laid back so it’s a perfect combination. I didn’t think I would have this much fun but I’m excited to come to training like this again next year.”

Besides an expansive amount of terrain that can be used for many different types of training, including land navigation courses, Camp Dawson also has multiple weapon ranges and sites that will assist the 171 SFS in expanding their training to meet growing requirements and needs.

“I would actually like to expand our training down here to include some M9, M4 weapon qualifications, land navigation, building clearance in the mount village, and just expand the training to make it a more productive summer camp,” said Altmeyer. “There are endless opportunities for us here. This training far exceeded my expectations and I think we are all looking forward to spending more time here at Camp Dawson.”

The 171 SFS is expecting to return to Camp Dawson in the next year.