Airmen face harsh reality during training exercise

Darrell Maurina

The mission: Take a bare piece of ground and make it into an air base capable of receiving the Air Force’s most advanced aircraft.
Personnel with Cannon Air Force Base’s 27th Mission Support Group participated in the realistic simulation Oct. 13-22 in an isolated area of rural New Jersey.
“When we got there, there was nothing on the ground except a few porta-potties,” said Col. Lisa Firmin, commander of the 27th Mission Support Group. “They actually had people play the role of protesters who did not want the American presence in the area and see how we would handle those kinds of things. They threw things at you that made it difficult to establish a bare base.”
Firmin said the training exercise was designed to reflect real-life situations. Training specialists watched Cannon personnel go through all their plans to prepare for a deployment — and then threw monkey wrenches into the works to see how staff would react.
“We arrived and there weren’t enough vehicles for us to use so we had to make do with what we had,” said Firmin. “We had fuel shortages and had to be very conservative on how we did everything.”
Cannon personnel arrived without enough generators to provide heat and electricity, and some of the equipment that was present didn’t work and had to be fixed.
“Anything you could think of that would be a typical stumbling block in the real world was thrown at us out there,” Firmin said.
Some obstacles were not man made.
“The weather was pouring and cold and we were putting up tents in the rain,” Firmin said. “It was quite windy and our tents were very difficult to put up in those conditions.”
Despite the challenges, Cannon personnel erected a large tent city within a few days, which could have served as a staging area for a major air combat operation.
“We had running water, showers, a chow hall with hot meals,” Firmin said. “My first priority was security, establishing the base, but by the time we got done, the tents were really pretty comfortable.”