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Engineers test skills at Silver Flag exercise

Firefighters from the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron practice
extracting wounded aircrew members from a smoking helicopter during Silver Flag 2006, held at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., from Oct. 14 to 21. (Photo courtesy 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

Firefighters from the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron practice extracting wounded aircrew members from a smoking helicopter during Silver Flag 2006, held at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., from Oct. 14 to 21. (Photo courtesy 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

CE troops from Guard, reserve and activeduty units staff a Unit Control Center during
a simulated attack. (Photo courtesy 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

CE troops from Guard, reserve and activeduty units staff a Unit Control Center during a simulated attack. (Photo courtesy 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

Master Sgt. Kevin Kaufman of the 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron surveys land
for the construction of a tent city. (Photo courtesy 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

Master Sgt. Kevin Kaufman of the 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron surveys land for the construction of a tent city. (Photo courtesy 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

Firefighters extinguish a blaze on a simulated fighter aircraft at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (Photo courtesy 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

Firefighters extinguish a blaze on a simulated fighter aircraft at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (Photo courtesy 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Florida -- More than 60 members of the 123rd Civil Engineering Squadron deployed to Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., in October for Silver Flag, a recurring training event designed to educate CE troops about the newest equipment and latest lessons learned in the Global War on Terror. 

The unit last attended a Silver Flag exercise in 2003, just before being deployed to Baghdad International Airport. Maj. John Cassel, the squadron's operations officer in charge, said the 2003 experience proved invaluable -- and this year's training was no different. 

"In 2003, we were taught the latest lessons learned from the AOR, which really contributed to our success in Iraq. 

"Likewise, Silver Flag 2006 exposed us to many new techniques, equipment briefings and ideas that will help us in future assignments. If we're deployed to the AOR again, we'll be able to hit the ground running." 

Major Cassel cited the military's Alaskan Small Shelter System as one example of new technology. Older, flat-sided tents are being replaced with this system, which features
modules that resemble Quonset huts.

"They have more head room, are easier to put up and are safer than the older tents," he said. "And we need to learn as much about them as we can so we can go to a place like Baghdad set up a tent city using them."

Airmen representing all four of civil engineering's primary missions -- Air Base Operability (also known as disaster preparedness), Fire Protection, Explosive Ordinance Disposal and the Base Emergency Engineering Force (or construction specialties) -- all were able to train on new equipment unavailable at home station. 

"It ran the gamut from aircraft arresting systems and runway lighting to whatever is necessary for rapid runway repair," Major Cassel said. 

Silver Flag even boasted a giant fire pit -- similar to a gas-powered barbecue -- that gave firefighters the opportunity to practice on simulated aircraft blazes. 

Meanwhile, EOD specialists scouted for Improvised Explosive Devices on a dedicated course designed by some of the field's top experts. 

Another benefit of Silver Flag was the opportunity it provided for blending, Major Cassel said. More than a dozen units and about 250 troops were combined for the exercise, simulating the kind of blended squadrons Airmen will encounter during real-world deployments. 

"The whole experience was an exceptional training opportunity," he said.