Security Forces Airmen learn essential combat leadership

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Laura Turner
  • 310th Space Wing Public Affairs


Nestled in the mountains of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., sits a cluster of hard-shell buildings known as FERL City. It carries the scent of a typical combat environment; dust, musty military cots, sweaty boots and the lingering aroma of hot chow. The crunch of combat boots on rocks can be heard across the compound as Airmen move swiftly from one building to the next, their rifles on their shoulders and combat gear in place.

These Airmen are participants of the 2017 Reduced Combat Leaders Course, which combines seven days of classroom instruction with field training exercises for non-commissioned officers and company grade officers in the Security Forces career field. Back in 2012, Security Forces leadership within the 310th Space Wing recognized a common training deficiency among their young troops.

“We found a gap within our Junior NCO rank and their leadership abilities,” said Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Arney, Non-commissioned Officer in Charge of Reduced Combat Leaders Course for 710th Security Forces Squadron. “So we built this class to allow them the opportunity to grow and learn those leadership skills.”

Three Airmen from the 310th Force Support Squadron provided hot meals for those going through the training, and four Airmen from 310th Aerospace Medicine Flight were imbedded for medical support.

“We’re really happy to have them out here,” said Arney. “Already this morning, nine people have been in to see the medics. Some are just not used to this environment and this sort of physical training so they end up pushing their bodies a bit too far.”

After chow has been eaten and practice drills have been run, more than twenty Airmen gather to brief and strategize their operational movements of the day. They are given a combat scenario, with cadre acting as insurgents, and must come up with their own plan of action.

“We bring students out here and they are put into mission sets,” said Arney. “They need to do all their own mission planning and intel reconnaissance, analyze their own intel. It’s a completely student-led course.”

The Airmen break from their brief and head out to do rock drills. Similar to sticking pins into a map when planning military movements, they use rocks to coordinate strategic placement of each troop. They also run through different scenarios to avoid mistakes out in the field, encouraging younger Airmen to step up into roles requiring an immediate decision or course of action.

“We are learning how to do maneuvers as well as apply different levels of leadership,” explained Tech. Sgt. Robert Allen, 710th SFS. “Everybody is taking a role and we’re trying to do our jobs better. It is fun, it’s challenging, and you get frustrated at times but that’s part of trying to learn a combat role. Not everything goes perfectly.”

Finally, it is time for the combat situation to begin. After loading up with water, practice ammunition, weapons and field gear, twenty-four Airmen step out. The first part of the trek leads down a dirt road with little cover heading into the mountains. Within seconds of their march, gunfire erupts through the trees. Not a moment of hesitation occurs as the Airmen immediately remember their training and begin to seek cover, protect their group and return fire.

“This past week I’ve learned the fundamentals of becoming a leader in combat situations, as well as integrating with strangers that I just met,” said Senior Airman Kaila Paul, 302nd SFS. “From moving as a team to what to do under ambush and how to take care of team members who have been hurt.”

2017 marks the fifth consecutive year that Active, Guard and Reserve security forces Airmen have come from around the country to participate in the course. Feedback from students consistently exceeds expectations, which resulted in recognition from 10th Air Force and funding to conduct a Train-the-Trainer course in 2016.

Due to deployment tasking’s for 2017-2018, the next Reduced Combat Leaders Course will be in 2019. For Security Forces squadrons interested in attending, contact Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Arney,, (719) 847-1037.