How capable for combat are you?

  • Published
  • 309th Fighter Squadron commander
A fighter squadron commander is writing an article for the base paper. Here we go ... jets, bombs, leather jackets, sunglasses, egos and, "There I was ...," stories. Nope, not this time! This short diatribe is about taking a self assessment of your ability to not only execute your specific job but also perform other combat tasks in support of our continued war on terror. 

What do I mean? In 1999, I was fishing one night in Florida when my squadron commander told me to "pack up" because we were flying to Germany. Just 24 hours later my squadron was in Italy preparing for combat operations in the Balkans. Was I ready? Was my training good enough to help me kill and survive? What was I expected to do for my country? 

These questions face all Airmen when they actually deploy to a new theater of operation. So let's cover the basics of preparing for combat. 

Your Air Force specialty code does not mean you will do only what your job description says and nothing more. "But sir, that's not my job!" Yeah, whatever. 

Do yourself a favor and ask the Luke Air Force Base warriors who have deployed and are currently deployed about their combat tasks. No longer is it that the pilots fly hundreds of miles to bomb the enemy while everyone else is safely tucked away in a friendly country, "in the rear with the gear." You may find yourself on the front lines carrying a weapon, standing a post or protecting a convoy while executing your primary AFSC. In that moment, you may need the benefit of knowing some of the experiences of those who have already been there. 

That became clear during my last visit to Lackland AFB, Texas, for an orientation on current basic military training. I was so impressed with the "warrior ethos" mentality that is now engrained in the hearts and minds of our youngest Airmen. We are warriors first and we will engage the enemy and sometimes interact with various indigenous cultures more than ever before. Simply put, we need to know our major weapons systems, our tactics and use common sense while learning from the experiences of others. 

Your major weapon system is the easy part of our mission. This is the specialty that you execute every day and increase your experience through solid training programs. This is your trade and you should feel confident you are prepared to do your job. 

Now your tactics are how you handle the expected challenges and contingencies that life deals you every day. Those who spend enough time planning against potential roadblocks will succeed even under the most difficult conditions. This is why we exercise and create situations requiring critical thinking and problem solving skills. It is this area where we gain valuable experience from others and share our personal lessons learned. 

Finally, common sense is something not everyone is born with but can be learned. We all need to apply common sense to current training practices and adjust as required. 

This is why predeployment training is crucial to your success. We must ensure you have the necessary skill sets for the specific air expeditionary force tasking you have been ordered to execute. This is your last chance to prepare before the combat deployment, so do not take this lightly. 

The takeaways on combat capability are straight forward. Every day you learn something and every day you teach something. Train like you fight and fight like you train! Strive to make yourself better in every endeavor. 

The next time you are in a rush to get "service" from someone here at Luke or any other base, remember this - that base defender, medical professional, crew "dawg", civil engineer or long-haired civilian may have some experience or combat capability worth hearing about. You never know who you are talking to, and you might learn something that will help you be more capable for combat when you get the call to deploy. 

Be ready ... your country and family are depending on it.