Survive and operate … a serious matter

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Eric Morgan
  • 319th Civil Engineering Squadron
Some folks shrug off ability to survive and operate training, calling it a “hassle” and a “waste of time.” Others might think it’s something to learn only for anupcoming Operational Readiness Inspection and then quickly forget. 

The reality is that whether in exercises or in the real world, the ATSO skills you learn ensure you are able to carry out the mission under demanding wartime conditions when the need arises. Most of these skills (such as proper wearing of the chemical ensemble, decontaminating equipment and vehicles, being able to conduct post attack reconnaissance sweeps, using and function-checking weapons and being able to administer nerve agent antidotes) may not seem immediately relevant in your day-to-day job. However, when the time comes, these skills can be critical for survival in battle. 

While deployed last year, I found these skills handy on more than one occasion. Prior to my arrival, there hadn’t been an attack in two weeks. That changed soon after I got there. You never forget the first time you hear a rocket impact or the sound it makes as it goes whizzing by your building. But I knew if there was a rocket attack, I would immediately put on my helmet and body armor and listen to the giant voice for the current alarm condition. As soon as I was safe to do so, I was on my way to the Survival Recovery Center. Whether it was answering phones, making recommendations or finding the point of origin or impact of the attack, we worked with security forces, explosive ordnance disposal and intelligence personnel to ensure timely analysis of information being reported. 

Rocket attacks were a constant threat throughout the whole deployment. Whether it was day or night, they came with us never knowing what each one contained (but always knowing the threat of chemical munitions was there). For this reason, we always made sure our equipment was regularly inspected and in good operating condition, especially our masks. 

My deployment taught me that being prepared is more than your commander’s or unit deployment manager’s responsibility. It’s everyone’s personal responsibility to ensure that we do things like inspecting protective masks to make sure all components work properly. I can recall several times while deployed that we had to replace parts of masks that could have been identified as deficient at home station if only the individual had done a proper inspection before deploying. 

Not long into my deployment it became very clear to me that having all of my equipment in working order was essential to being able to do my job. It allowed me to focus on the tasks at hand and not worry about whether I was going to be protected or not if the need arose. 

In the end, it comes down to the fact that you can never be TOO prepared and that there are many people at home willing to help you. Of course, the best preparation comes from being familiar with the Airman’s Manual and being involved in local exercises. When its all said and done, your safety is YOUR responsibility … and from personal experience I can tell you that its something you need to take very seriously. 

Tech Sgt. Mohamed Sharief and Senior Airman Jared Cullinan, 319 CES, also contributed to this article.