435th CTS: Building the Foundations for International Engineering
U.S. Airmen are using the shared desire for training and improvement to forge relationships with military engineers of partner nations.
By Capt. Natalie Chounet, M.SAME, USAF, Tech Sgt. Sherry Matthews, USAF, Staff Sgt. Justin Bunton, USAF, and Staff Sgt. Allen Adams, USAF
Capt. Murat Ilgaz, Turkish Air Force, along with Tech Sgt. Helen Hernandez, USAF from Lackland AFB, Texas, place a folded fiber glass matting over a repaired airfield crater at USAFE Silver Flag training. U.S. Air Force photos
“Building partnership capacity” is a growing U.S. government mission, though it is one often towing the question: How do we accomplish it to make a lasting impact? For a group of engineers of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), part of the answer is simple: share information and train together.
“Others Promise – We Produce!” These four words describe the mission statement of the uniquely versatile 435th Construction & Training Squadron (CTS). What has evolved to become the asset it is today, began, on Sept. 8, 1950, as the all-civilian “7329th Labor Service Unit.” The 435th CTS is the only unit of 41 originally created still in existence. The squadron now includes 88 military and 184 civilians who execute support in three main areas across USAFE: facility and infrastructure construction and repair; depot-level maintenance/rebuild and installation of aircraft arresting systems; and civil engineer and force support squadron wartime task training.
A LEGACY OF TRAINING
A training mission was assigned to CTS in 1979 in order to provide Airmen with wartime skill training. Today, there are three training courses: Silver Flag, Mission Essential Equipment Training and Specialized Training.
- Silver Flag training prepares Airmen for the cross functional planning and craft-specific execution required to establish a “bare base” through “crawl-walk-run” academic instruction and field exercise.
- Mission Essential Equipment Training, or “MEET,” is focused on how to operate, troubleshoot and repair specific equipment systems—expedient airfield lighting, mobile aircraft arresting systems, bare base electrical distribution kit, and reverse osmosis water purification unit.
- The Specialty Training courses maintain specific skill sets for Airmen and include Fire Rescue, Expeditionary Carpentry, and Welding courses.
Staff Sgt. Winston Jerez, USAF, 435 CTS Fire Academy Cadre, assists Capt. Cristi Muraru, Romanian Air Force, as she begins a 30-ft repel.
The training week of MEET and Specialty courses culminate in an instructor-evaluated task performance task for each student. The skills garnered ensure that Airmen perform the team and individual tasks needed to open a base, establish a base and sustain a base. In a nutshell, they will provide the “beans and beds” of a contingency effort. Preparing the Air Force support arm for this responsibility has caught the attention of regional partners looking to improve their own procedures.
CTS has worked closely with USAFE coordinating offices and the 435th Contingency Response Group to support the growing mission set of “building partnership capacity”—essentially, they create programs that set multinational partners on a course for seamless work accomplishment. CTS is used as a platform for foreign teams to observe and train on Air Force equipment, establish a cross flow of information, and implement best practices into their home units. For many of these nations, observing CTS training is used in efforts to align their own practices throughout NATO. There is a single, common goal that all parties involved have: to set the stage for eased interoperability among multiple nations in future operations. The interest in training requests from partner nations is as varied as the training flight cadre specialties. From airfield establishment to providing expeditionary feeding platforms, CTS faces the challenge head-on.
PARTNERING WITH NATIONS
Many of the 2012 international visits were done in an observation role, but with the opportunity to participate in hands-on training. The mobile aircraft arresting systems and welding portions of the training are the most popular of the hands-on training. Visiting engineers often do not consider troop feeding requirements. So far, most of the teams CTS has encountered have been a little surprised to see that there are morale and food programs in included in its training.
International engineers and planners that have taken part in Silver Flag training are Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Nigeria, Turkey, Germany, Bulgaria and Romania. Enrollment for the Silver Flag training increased in July 2011, when the course had an audience of two from the Azerbaijani forces whose goal was reporting the information and practices back to Azerbaijan to improve home unit processes. And in fact, a team from Azerbaijan returned to the CTS Silver Flag training again in 2012 to fine tune engineering operations.
1st Lt. Marian Udroiu, Romanian Air Force, assists U.S. Airmen as they anchor a BAK-12 Mobile Aircraft Arresting System at USAFE Silver Flag Training.
CTS also hosted delegates from Turkey in 2012. This exercise, to train with the Turkish Air Force Engineers, proved invaluable for CTS. There was just one real challenge, and that was that there was so much the Turkish Air Force Engineers wanted to learn in such a short time-frame. Looking ahead, the Turkish Air Force Engineers want to make an even larger effort to bring in an entire flight of Turkish Air Force members to visit the CTS Silver Flag Training Site for the benefit of gaining certain knowledge and skills in specific specialties.
A Romanian Air Force delegation soon followed. Hosted by Romanian native, Staff Sgt. Ioan Gaitan, USAF, Silver Flag Training Instructor, the training included fire prevention planning, electric airfield lighting systems installation, and GPS and surveying exercises. One particular area that stood out to the Romanians was the technological differences between the U.S. and Romanian survey and data systems. Survey techniques and training between journeyman from each nation also was a topic of intense discussion. According to Staff Sgt. Gaitan, the Romanian military partnership will definitely be continued at the 435th CTS, as they are planning to return to the Silver Flag site to observe and cooperate in a full-blown training exercise.
The effort to expand training and improve interoperability does not end within NATO borders. In early December 2012, four members from the Nigerian Air Force Quick Response Force (QRF) had the opportunity to visit the CTS training site. This group included Nigerian Air Force Air Commodore Bernard U. Chiobi, QRF Commander, and five team members. While CTS was just one of many aspects of the visit hosted by the 435th Contingency Response Group, the engineer capability left a lasting impression.
According to Staff Sgt. Patrick Robinson, USAF, 435th CTS Training Flight Instructor, the most important aspect of engineering that was influential to the Nigerian contingent was CTS’ expertise in water management. The capabilities of the reverse osmosis water purification unit can be very beneficial—how it is able to purify and then recycle non-potable water to be reused. For Air Commodore Chiobi, the visit to CTS was an invaluable opportunity to see how partner nations carry out their mission and train and prepare their air forces.
One of the strongest training relationships CTS has fostered over the years is with the German Air Forces. Training efforts for mobile aircraft arresting systems between German Air Forces and CTS have been conducted hand-in-hand since the summer of 2011. Efforts include CTS instructor support to “train the trainer” and German Air Forces Instructor MEET training, hosted at Ramstein, AB, Germany.
More international opportunities are on the horizon for CTS training personnel: Fire Rescue training with regional allies, Silver Flag training with U.S. Marine Corps engineers, and the opportunity to participate in the European Command-hosted exercise “Capable Logistician,” a multinational European exercise to demonstrate water production interoperability and capabilities.
With 14 engineer and force support specialty craftsmen dedicated to training, CTS is poised to continue improving engineering ingenuity across all borders. Whether in a training exercise or a deployed location, the time invested in training and developing engineering interoperability is sure to pay dividends to the Air Force and the nation.