Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reservists head to Hill AFB for training deployment

by Senior Airman Danielle Wolf
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/11/2010 - HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- About 70 reservists from the 442nd Fighter Wing went to Hill Air Force Base, Utah Aug. 24 to Sept. 2 to support A-10 Thunderbolt II live-weapons training.

This was the first time the wing has had the opportunity to do live AGM-65 maverick missile and live GBU-38 GPS-guided bomb target practice.

"From an operational standpoint, this is one of the few chances a year our pilots get to do live-munition training," said Senior Master Sgt. Aaron McRoberts, acting aircraft maintenance squadron production supervisor for the temporary duty. "From the maintenance standpoint, it's an opportunity to load live munitions and learn the safety aspects of working around them."

Sergeant McRoberts said the TDY acted as a refresher for certain aspects of aircraft maintenance - something he doesn't always get the chance to do as a flight chief at his home station.

For some 303rd Fighter Squadron pilots, this was their first opportunity to fire live joint direct-attack munition drops.

At home-station ranges, pilots fire practice munitions, which allows them to train on a daily basis. But at the Utah test and training range they have ample space and ability to drop live weapons.

"This is the real thing," said Tech. Sgt. Travis Trudeau, 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron ammunition technician. "We can practice all we want, but we can't get certified to load live weapons without the experience of actually doing it."

Sergeant Trudeau said it is challenging to work with limited resources - the equipment and supplies which they brought only for the TDY - but that forces reservists to work in conditions similar to that of a deployment.

"The environment here can be more challenging, but we need to go to other areas because it reduces complacency for the pilots and maintainers," said Lt. Col. Preston McConnell, TDY troop commander.

A new firing ground is one way to eliminate that complacency.

"Instead of having a range with hundreds of acres, we now have a range with hundreds of thousands of acres to practice on," said Lt. Col. Preston McConnell, TDY troop commander. "(The UTTR) gives us the ability to drop live weapons at targets, like armed personnel, carriers and trucks."

Maj. Lee Saugstad said the geography of Utah is helpful for weapons training because in many ways, it mirrors the geography of the Middle East.

"Utah's geography is much more like Afghanistan's geography than that of Missouri," he said. "The mountains are large, but with vast areas of flat land. The elevation is also similar to Afghanistan's (elevation.)"

The main body of people was able to experience some of those similarities when they first arrived in on the C-5 in Utah Aug. 28.

"It was very 'Bagram-esce,'" said Major Saugstad. "We landed in the middle of a dust storm, and the wind was howling."

Between weather and maintenance, the team had it's fair share of challenges.

"Maintenance handled everything with class," Colonel McConnell said. "They did their jobs even though nothing went smoothly when we first got here - and because they did their jobs, we never lost a sortie. They also worked very long hours so the pilots could get in valuable training."

"This whole mission was a team effort that epitomizes the strength of the 442nd Fighter Wing," he said.


Please note: Related pictures will be uploaded soon.

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