Becoming a ‘JET’ Airman
By Maj. Charles Pratt, 129th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
/ Published June 17, 2009
FORT DIX, N.J. -- Just when you thought you would never go "outside the wire" in a combat zone, there you are, in a Joint Expeditionary Task Unit Line Number mission, providing critical skills and expertise, under the Army's tactical control.
In a growing joint environment within Central Command, Air Force Airmen are in the mix with Army units fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Knowing that our Airmen (outside of a few jobs that are routinely outside the wire) are increasingly being tasked by the Army to perform missions requiring ground combat skills, 2nd Air Force contracted with the Army to provide Combat Skills Training to these Joint Expeditionary Tasked, or JET, Airmen.
Not every deploying Airman will require this training, but if there is a chance your ULN requires it, then you will be required to attend CST. Don't fret! This joint-functional training was a good experience and if you go outside the wire it is imperative that you understand basic ground combat skills. There are a few CST courses throughout the Department of Defense, but they all cover the same basic skills.
Unlike typical Air Force training, CST at Fort Dix, New Jersey, is 34 days and there are no days off. Classes may begin early in the morning and may not resume until late at night. Therefore, these sporadic classes don't follow the same linear training model as technical school training, so it takes some adjustment.
But I must say, it couldn't have been more fun! I have never fired more semi-automatic rifle or hand-gun rounds in my life, with pop up targets, even at night, than I did that month.
Additionally, there is a large expectation that you will travel in high mobility multi-wheeled or other up-armored vehicles when in these specific ULN taskings so therefore, expect several days of Convoy Operations Training. COT takes you from soup to nuts on how to plan, protect and navigate a multi-vehicle convey through hostile territory, complete with live enemy actors shooting at you. While it's not likely you will roll-over in a High Mobility Military Vehicle, you will still attend HMMV Egress Assistance Training which simulates a HMMV roll-over.
If you thought that over a month of non-stop combat training was enough, you will also attend 40 hours of Combat Life Saving. After sticking intravenous needles in your buddy, you will do an extremely invigorating exercise where you actually run in full "battle rattle" under fire threat, carry patients over obstacles and under barbed wire, call in a request for medical evacuation, and then call it a morning.
Additionally, be prepared to spend a few days on a Forward Operating Base in harsh conditions, spend a few sessions in Arabic languages, set up an Entry Control Point, do Counter-Insurgence Operations, land navigate through the woods in full gear with just a compass and grid map, all while spending every moment with your weapon.
I have to say the "Combatives" hand-to-hand combat training for three nights taught more ways to subdue an enemy than watching a mixed martial arts fight. We also received a large amount of Improvised Explosive Device training where numerous instruction and exercises exposed you to the latest Tactical Training Plans the enemy has for use of IEDs against coalition forces.
The bottom line is you will receive more realistic training than any other Air Force Specialty Codes outside of our security forces and PJ's.
CST was a great learning experience and I feel that when I go outside the wire, I will have basic knowledge on what to do, look for, and react to, while performing my skills in a joint combat environment. It was good training with the Army, as this is what they do. It makes sense to train in the joint environment of which we fight.
Remember too that if you are called to attend CST, be in very good shape, have a great attitude and extract as much information as possible from this course as it will help you to fight, survive and operate "outside the wire" if tasked to do so.