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103rd SFS excels at Patriot Defender training

A security forces team prepares to enter and clear a building of hostiles during Patriot Defender Training in Mineral Wells, Texas at Fort Wolters Military Reservation March 13 through March 29, 2009.  (photo courtesy of Master Sgt. John Gasiorek)

A security forces team prepares to enter and clear a building of hostiles during Patriot Defender Training in Mineral Wells, Texas at Fort Wolters Military Reservation March 13 through March 29, 2009. (photo courtesy of Master Sgt. John Gasiorek)

A security forces team uses smoke to conceal their movement during Patriot Defender Training in Mineral Wells, Texas at Fort Wolters Military Reservation March 13 through March 29, 2009.  (photo courtesy of Master Sgt. John Gasiorek)

A security forces team uses smoke to conceal their movement during Patriot Defender Training in Mineral Wells, Texas at Fort Wolters Military Reservation March 13 through March 29, 2009. (photo courtesy of Master Sgt. John Gasiorek)

Fort Wolters Military Reservation--Mineral Wells, Texas -- A Security Forces squad from the 103rd Security Forces Squadron attended Patriot Defender Training in Mineral Wells, Texas at Fort Wolters Military Reservation March 13 through March 29.
     The training opportunity was unique right from the start. With tough economic times and increased travel expenses, commanders brainstormed on ways to provide quality training for the troops while still containing costs. Maj. Thomas Hannon, previous 103rd Security Forces commander now hailing from the 143rd Security Forces Squadron with the Rhode Island Air National Guard, contacted his classmate, present commander of the 103rd Security Forces, Capt. Steven Falusi, to strategize. A short time later, the Rhode Island Air National Guard with their new C-130J aircraft were providing transportation and free box lunches for the joint, 58-member team.
     The training was very regimented and consisted of long days. Fourteen other states consisting of both active duty and Air National Guard security forces personnel sent teams to the new combat skills training. Security forces personnel were not allowed to wear civilian clothes and were required to wear their ABU or PT Gear similar to current policies in forward operating base deployment locations. Ninety percent of the training cadre from the 612th Security Forces Squadron had returned from either Iraq or Afghanistan within the last 12 months. The fact the cadre had deployed at least once or, in most cases, more than once brought credibility and relevancy to the training. Many of the scenarios presented in training were taken from real-life events occurring day to day in theatre.
     Although not field conditions, the group of 13 from the 103rd stayed in open-bay barracks to create a close bond and camaraderie consistent with a basic military training environment. The training was intensive and encompassed a wide range of combat tactics and operations. The cops got to use the 9 line Medical Evacuation and IED/UXO. This is a newer, standardized and more efficient system for calling for help or to report findings of questionable objects.
     The squad also participated in convoy training, foot and vehicle patrols, reacting to improvised explosive devices, hand grenade retraining, writing and executing operations orders, land navigation, manning checkpoints and listening/observation posts and mounted operations using simulation rounds. Simulation rounds added intensity and realism to the training by allowing participants to be aware of when they have been hit by enemy munitions. These rounds hurt worse than paintball rounds, another method of training security forces commonly use.
     Tech. Sgt. Stephen Grippen, security forces craftsman and fire team leader, said it was "awesome training" and enjoyed the Mounted Operations training most of all.
     Members also had the opportunity to use new night vision equipment and attend a cultural awareness course based on the Islamic culture.
     No security forces training would be complete without live gunfire. Members also negotiated a combat pistol range and a quick reaction M4 carbine rifle range. Tech. Sgt. Jerry Lashway, security forces craftsman and fire team leader, won the Top Gun Award for the pistol range.
     The Non-Commissioned Officers from Alpha Flight got together and as a group selected Staff Sgt. Wilfredo Soto as the Outstanding Performer for Patriot Defender based on Soto's motivation, job knowledge and leadership skills. Soto seconded Grippen's opinion on the training and thought the convoy training was the best. Both troops especially enjoyed playing the opposing forces for other teams. It gave them the chance to be the bad guy and have some fun.
     The last three days of training encompassed a round-robin final exam covering everything which was taught over the first 12 days of training. This gave the troops the opportunity to employ the tasks they learned leading to overall and individual troop confidence.
     At the conclusion of training, Master Sgt. Gasiorek, squad leader, was impressed with how efficient the logistics of air transportation, lodging and training gelled together. Even more impressive was the way the fire team leaders lead their troops and how their troops responded to every opportunity performing flawlessly.
     "We are fortunate at the 103rd Security Forces Squadron to have such a strong training section with a lot of great prior experience active-duty, guard as well as civilian law enforcement. As a senior NCO, you always worry whether or not you are maximizing every opportunity during drill weekend to ensure the troops are trained and confident. The Patriot Defender exercise was a great indicator on how we are definitely on track. Although I may be a little bias, had there been an outstanding squad award, there is no doubt the 103rd Security Forces would have secured the recognition," Gasiorek said. "The troops were just damn impressive!"
     Patriot Defender prepares security forces members for combat deployments but also serves as maintenance of perishable skills and fulfills annual training requirements.