By Maj. Brian Bowman, 139th Airlift Wing
/ Published April 26, 2010
ST. JOSEPH, MO. -- It may have been "practice," but the surprising April heat, heavy chemical protective gear and the stress of evaluators watching every move were real enough for members of the 241st Air Traffic Control Squadron.
Fifty-four of the 241st's members were put to the test during the April UTA at Rosecrans, participating in the Ability to Survive and Operate portion of an Operational Readiness Exercise. The unit is preparing for a June Operational Readiness Inspection.
"We're doing a dress rehearsal," said Maj. John Howie, commander of the 241st ATC. "(The ORI) is our test to see if we are ready to go to war."
The ATSO tests a unit's ability to do its job while being stressed with combat-simulated situations. Chemical and conventional attacks are simulated, as are casualties.
Exercise players respond to the different events, keep themselves and their equipment safe and operational and continue to perform their wartime mission to the best of their ability.
It's not always easy.
"We're doing all right," Howie said. "(We've had) a couple of lessons learned here and there."
The unit is being evaluated by several members the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron out of McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., who just went through its ORI earlier this year.
"We owe them a big thanks," Howie said.
Capt. Pat Shelton, the airfield operations officer for the 241st, said the exercise was valuable as the unit prepared for the inspection.
"We are learning," he said. "We're doing a lot better than when we started. The attitude of our airmen has been great."
The 241st is trained to take over newly captured and secured airstrips in austere locations, and convert them to operational forward airfields within hours.