JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Exercises play an important role in the Air Force, testing an organization's effectiveness in responding to contingencies such as active-shooter incidents, natural disasters and chemical spills.
Installation-level exercises are typically well-publicized events in base communities, but other exercises less obvious to the public take place at Air Force bases on a daily basis.
At Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, 902nd Security Forces Squadron members engage in flight- and squadron-level exercises that help them perform at a peak level throughout the year.
"These exercises are additional training for our defenders out there so they can provide the best service and best protection possible for all the resources at JBSA-Randolph," Master Sgt. Kevyn O'Neill, 902nd SFS NCO in charge of standards and evaluations, said.
Flight-level exercises are performed on a daily basis, sometimes two or three times a day, O'Neill said.
"Flight-level exercises affect those who are on duty at that time," he said. "It could be an exercise dealing with gate runners, traffic stops, vehicle searches or chemical spills."
Squadron-level exercises, on the other hand, affect everyone in the squadron, O'Neill said.
"It could happen at night or on the weekend," he said. "It's a time when you call in extra forces."
Staff Sgt. Larry Holmes, 902nd SFS NCO in charge of police services, called JBSA-Randolph "a unique location."
"We deal mostly with law enforcement actions, such as traffic stops and gate issues, but we have an exercise for just about anything that can happen here," he said.
Exercises are often tailored to events that happen most frequently - or are the most dangerous, O'Neill said.
"We try to do exercises that patrol officers and installation security advisers deal with most often, such as traffic stops and vehicle searches, or those that are the most dangerous, like active shooters," he said.
An exercise that took place Nov. 10 tested 902nd SFS members' responses to an incident involving barricaded suspects. Members exchanged simulated munitions fire with adversaries and practiced assault force maneuvers.
O'Neill and other exercise evaluators carefully assess participants, taking notes and providing a critique at the event's conclusion.
"We go out and evaluate how the guys are doing their job," he said. "We make sure they follow established tactics, techniques and procedures."
O'Neill said exercises "reinforce the training 902nd SFS members get and give it a practical application.
"It's just that repetitive nature," he said. "It's done to perfect your craft so you will automatically react to situations. You don't rise to the occasion; you fall back on your training."
Holmes said exercises help security forces members "prepare for the unexpected.
"If we do it over and over again, it becomes muscle memory and helps us meet challenges more efficiently," he said.