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644 CBCS executes 'Dragon Thunder'

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
The 644th Combat Communication Squadron successfully conducted field training exercise Dragon Thunder from April 16 to 27.

During the exercise they accomplished communications setup and force protection training in a simulated bare-base environment.

"Based on what I have observed during my visits and by the reports of the leadership on site, I was very pleased and I think they did a great job out there," said Lt. Col. Gary Hayward, 644th Combat Communication Squadron commander. "We had experienced Airmen and ones that were going through this kind of exercise for the first time," he continued. "We use these opportunities not just to test our capabilities, but also to train our younger Airmen and get them better qualified to go out on future missions."

Capt. Miguel Gonzalez, 644 CBCS deputy commander and exercise site commander, said that in the past year they had a lot of new Airman join their team. He said this exercise was a learning process where they improved their defensive fighting posture, along with promoting cohesiveness and camaraderie within the squadron.

"I was very impressed with the team work that everybody displayed because in a typical work center everybody usually stays in their comfort zone," said Captain Gonzalez. "When we got out there, one of the first things that I have noticed was how well the Airmen integrated. We had four to five sections out there working together to get communications up. It was impressive how easily they got to work, coalesced and put their minds together."

Aside from the team building, one of the main objectives of this exercise was to perform ground base defense training. This includes mission-oriented protective posture and post attack reconnaissance the 644 CBCS are not able practice during support mission exercises.

"This exercise allowed us to work our way to that state of combat readiness," said Colonel Hayward. "In a real-world mission, we don't know where we're going to be sent or where we're going to land in a theater; we need to be able to protect ourselves effectively. We cannot rely on a security forces unit to do that for us."

"The last year or so, we did a lot of exercises with the 36th Contingency Response Group, which revolved around how we can support that capability," he continued. "We have proven ourselves in performing support missions. This time, we needed to refocus on our primary mission, which is to be able to go out to an austere environment by ourselves, be able to defend our base and provide communications simultaneously."

These FTXs provide valuable training to their Airmen, not just the ones on the field, but also the planners and everyone else involved. The importance of having all their Airmen cannot be stressed enough.

"A big part of this exercise was being able to get the younger Airmen out on the field," he said. "Seeing that they can handle themselves in such scenarios gives me the confidence to send them out there. I no longer have to rely on certain individuals every single time to go out and meet mission goals. I can look across the board and tag anybody based on their career field and be confident that they will accomplish their mission."

Captain Gonzalez said that the junior Airmen did not only perform well during exercise Dragon Thunder, but they stepped up and went above and beyond what was expected of them.

"Leadership extends all the way down to the bottom," he said. "There are some young airmen out there that did a really great job, not only in following direction, but actually taking initiative to do things properly versus just getting things done. Everyone worked very hard, and that just shows that we have great Airmen - new and experienced - in the military."

"I have no reservation about how these guys can perform in a mission if we were actually deployed in a real-world situation," he continued. "Everybody is well aware of our mission set and what they need to accomplish when they are sent out to the field."
According to the 644 CBCS, they will be conducting similar exercises to Dragon Thunder in the near future.

"If the call comes in and says the 644 CBCS needs to deploy out into the field, we're ready to go," Colonel Hayward said. "They should have utmost confidence in the Airmen in this squadron, professionals in this organization and know that they will go out there and get the job done, because I have the utmost trust and faith that they can accomplish whatever mission that will be entrusted to them."