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Testing Their Limits – Air National Guard FSS Units Train in Joint Exercise

  • Published
  • By Ryan White
  • 124th Fighter Wing

BOISE, ID -- Airmen with the 118th Force Support Squadron, Tennessee Air National Guard, joined members of the 124th FSS, Idaho Air National Guard, for a joint training exercise at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, June 8-11, 2021.

The goal of the joint training exercise was to bring two different units together who could learn from each other’s strengths in a simulated deployed environment.

“We wanted to come in and mesh groups, because when you deploy you’re going to be working with people you don’t know,” said Tech. Sgt. Devin Stokes, a base services specialist with the 118th FSS.

The units worked together to perform mission essential tasks in a simulated, contested environment. Normally challenging on its own, the joint training was also an exercise in testing emotional limits, as members of the 118th FSS had recently lost one of their Airmen.

Tech. Sgt. Rashad Williams, an Airman with the 118th FSS, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, days before the unit was scheduled to leave for the joint exercise in Idaho.

Wilson made Air Force history as the first Airman in a U.S. Air Force support squadron to complete a cold-water operations course. He was considered a rising star in the 118th FSS and many of his peers looked up to him.

“That man would be leading Airmen and they didn’t even know he was doing it because he did it in an empathetic way, but he did it in a firm way,” said 118th FSS Commander Lt. Col. Brian Celatka.

Wilson’s influence continues to shape the Airman of the 118th FSS.

“I notice a change in our people; everyone has really stepped up because he was a prominent figure in our unit,” said Stokes. “It's kind of like, well, now that he's gone, who's going to fill the shoes? And there's several people that want to try, so that's really awesome to see.”

Airmen from the 118th FSS worked with the 124th FSS to train on METs, including food preparation, establishing accountability, receiving bed down forces, fitness, regenerating the force and coordinating mortuary affairs, which involves search and recovery.

Project coordinators for the exercise partnered with a local butcher to procure animal parts for a more realistic search and recovery training. This unique training opportunity is rarely done outside of tech school.

“I'd say 95% of the fiscal year you're in the kitchen cooking, so I’ve been really excited about the search and recovery part of the exercise,” said Senior Airman Jaymon Kay, a services apprentice with the 124th FSS. “I'm excited for how realistic this is. It’s a side of our career field that we don't ever get to see.”

During the search and recovery, 12 FSS members formed a straight line, with two flankers on either end, and followed the direction of a team leader who called out stop movements. Members searched the terrain for remains, which they photographed, plotted with GPS coordinates, and bagged and tagged for processing.

Search and recovery is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s an optional assignment within the FSS. This exercise gave Airmen an opportunity to learn about themselves and see if they could handle being in the search and recovery line when a future tasking comes.

Given the recent loss of Wilson, Stokes believes the Airmen of the 118th excelled.

“It seems like they're working together better than they were before,” said Stokes. “Everybody's attitude has been great and they’ve come together.”