729th ACS goes to DIRT school

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  • Courtesy story by 729th Air Control Squadron

A ground burst simulator blast cracks through the crisp fall air. Airmen train their M4 Carbines on an opposing force running for the base perimeter. Simulated rounds echo in reply as small fire teams communicate enemy activity via tactical radios and direct a quick reaction force towards the intruder’s position.

The attack is repelled, but trainers and medical personnel quickly swoop in to report there are two simulated wounded warriors. The trainers monitor the care under fire and Self-Aid Buddy Care actions.

After the Airmen are moved to safety, the scenario fights on during the fourth iteration of the 729th Air Control Squadron’s “DIRT Days,” a 48-hour training exercise.

DIRT, which stands for Deployment Initial Readiness Training, teaches Airman from the Control and Reporting Center of 729th ACS and the 726th ACS at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, convoy operations, field living, small arms skills, defensive site preparation, radio communication, SABC under fire, and other readiness skills.

Coming on the heels of an emerging requirement for a more mobile and ready command and control anywhere in the world, the two CRCs under the command of the 552nd Air Control Group at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, have been working since spring on standardizing and training an organic teams of experts.

These experts train first-time CRC deployers, as well as refresh more experienced unit members on field skills and operating CRC equipment in expeditionary locations.

After years of being tasked to U.S. Central Command and familiar bases, CRC units are brushing up on fundamentals and reactivating a flexible mentality as they train and prepare to deploy anywhere they are needed for world-class command and control.

Since the advent of COVID-19, the CRC DIRT cadre leaders innovated a class size and schedule that allowed for distance learning academics, small team training, and flexible 48-hour practical training exercises.

There was a DIRT Honcho leadership class held for officers and senior non-commissioned officers focused on leading CRC units and movement of equipment anywhere needed on the globe while the DIRT Trooper course trained young officers and Airman practical execution of skills in a expeditionary role.

“I tell each class our purpose is to be ready and respond at a moment’s notice to any emerging contingencies worldwide,” said Master Sgt. Matthew West, 729th ACS’s NCO in charge.

New training on threats like cyber, electromagnetic spectrum operations, and small unmanned aerial vehicles have or will be implemented in upcoming exercises. Each 48-hour DIRT iteration is debriefed and modified based off real world and student feedback, as well as refinements from other units and enabling base agencies.

“We need to have our Airmen ready to support global contingency operations at all times,” said Maj. Josiah Swim, assistant director. “The fundamental field skills at DIRT school are critical to preparing our Airmen’s mindset for deploying to remote locations.”

Swim said taking time each month to consistently train and debrief practical scenarios goes a long way to improving the agility of the CRC community and making sure America’s investment in world class command and control, anytime, anyplace, is assured.

“The 729th is truly amazing,” he said. “Combined efforts allow a mobile command and control asset of the theater air control system that gives 24-hour, persistent options to combatant commanders all over the globe.”