A bond so strong they’ll trust their life to it

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider
  • 23d Wing

Airmen from separate Air Force components took time to train and foster relationships that could potentially mean the difference between life and death during their upcoming deployment.

For longer than a month, the 820th Base Defense Group and New York Air National Guard’s 105th Base Defense Squadron, based out of Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York, have trained hand-in-hand in preparation for their departure this week for partner deployments to Southwest Asia.

“If [I’ve established] a comfort zone with someone, I’m going to trust them more in a high-stress zone when people are shooting at us,” said Senior Airman Daniel Abbatiello, 105th BDS security forces journeyman. “Once that foundation is built and we’ve seen each other train and know each other’s reactions, it makes everything a whole lot better.”

The units need to build trust because they team up regularly to provide high-risk protection and base defense for the expeditionary Air Force.

While at Moody, the partnered units were able to train on an array of weapons systems along with rappelling, vehicle roll over training and also earned their driver’s licenses for mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, commonly known as MRAPs.

“Doing this training has really allowed us to get everybody on the same page and make sure we’re all squared away for the deployments,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Geovanii Pacheco, 820th Combat Operations Squadron tactical training NCO. “It allows for better continuity because we’re getting people who are doing this every day and then we’re also getting people from the 105th who periodically come in for training.”

This is the tenth time the units have deployed together. This training has helped strengthen the bonds created between Airmen who are attending their first partnered deployment and Airmen who have multiple deployments under their belt.

“We have people who treat these deployments as reunions because they’ve gone outside the wire together and they’ve been in combat situations,” said Pacheco. “I think this specific relationship is an example for other units to follow if they want to increase the working relationship with the National Guard downrange.”

Pacheco stressed the importance and benefit to already knowing who works well with who and what role each Airman will fill upon deployment. Pre-deployment training helps work out the kinks before going downrange.

The 105th BDS’ full-time Moody liaison said it was a ‘no-brainer’ to conduct mandatory and additional training with the 820th BDG.

“For the Security Forces career field, essentially everyone in the Air Force goes to the regional training center at Fort Bliss, Texas,” said Senior Master Sgt. Shawn Knowlton, 105th BDS liaison stationed at Moody Air Force Base. “We are exempt because we come here for that training.

“To me, [the 820th] is the leading agency for base defense groups in  the Air Force,” Knowlton added. “So who better to learn what we need to know as a [base defense squadron]. There’s no better place to go to truly know what the expectations are from the troops we’re supplying. We’re getting trained to their level, while also building connections.”

Not only does the training bring assurance to Airmen from the 105th BDS, but Airmen from the 820th agreed that training together in preparation for a deployment builds confidence all around.

“I’m absolutely confident in these Airmen,” said Pacheco. “We’ve been able to tailor the training exactly to what they’ll be doing, so it’s definitely left me with a more comfortable feeling. They’re a lot more confident now that they know what to look forward to.”

Pacheco explained that he had performed the same mission in the same environment roughly a year ago, allowing him to set Airmen up for success by organizing training to match the duties they’ll perform.

“That’s an advantage of getting somebody who has just completed the same deployment to train-up [the next] unit,” said Pacheco. “Someone who just had that experience in the past year, they know the current tactics, procedures and standards. It’s like training your replacement.”

The post deployment expertise, accompanied by the training resources the 820th BDG has at its disposal, brought proficiencies to National Guardsmen as well.

“Some of the more experienced guys know what training to [focus on],” said Abbatiello. “It’s really beneficial for us. So when we go out, we’re actually confident in what we’re doing. We don’t have those opportunities at our base because we don’t have the equipment, so we have fun coming down here.”

Likewise, representatives of the 820th BDG said they enjoy and recognize the added benefits accompanied with the experience.

“Overall it was great interacting with our National Guard sister unit to complete the mission and I’m really looking forward to hearing their [stories] when those guys come back,” said Pacheco. “Seeing if the training I gave them still applies to certain situations and if there were differences, that will help them and myself prepare the next iteration that’s going out after them.”